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A Latinx Resource Guide: Civil Rights Cases and Events in the United States

1966: The Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966

Carol Highsmith, photographer. Oil painting depicting the United States and Cuba relationship, Havana, Cuba. 1970. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The bipartisan Cuban Adjustment Act, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on November 2, 1966, granted work authorization permits and lawful permanent residency (green card status) to any Cuban native or citizen who settled in the United States for at least one year. The Cuban population in the United States grew from 79,000 to 439,000 between 1960 and 1970 as thousands of Cuban exiles sought asylum in the U.S. following hostilities surrounding the Cuban Revolution and termination of diplomatic relations between the two countries on January 3, 1961.

Two additional events led to significant migrations from Cuba to the United States. The Mariel boatlift of 1980, which lasted six months, led 125,000 Cubans to Florida’s shores. In August of 1995 the Clinton administration’s wet foot/dry foot policy responded to Fidel Castro’s declaration that no Cuban would be confined from leaving the island by boat. This legislation enabled Cubans who successfully reached U.S. soil to apply for legal status. Those intercepted at sea were repatriated to Cuba.

On January 12, 2017, the Obama administration amended diplomatic relations with Cuba, ended the wet foot/dry foot policy, and modified the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 to prohibit its exemption for Cuban nationals who enter the U.S. without visas.


January 3, 1961 Cuba and the United States end diplomatic relations.
April 17, 1961 President John F. Kennedy sends Cuban exiles to overthrow Castro in the Bay of Pigs.
October 14-28, 1962 The United States detects nuclear missiles in Cuba, leading the United States and the Soviet Union to agree to denuclearization.
November 2, 1966 President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Cuban Adjustment Act.
April 1, 1980 Over 10,000 Cubans crowd the grounds of the Peruvian embassy in Cuba seeking refuge and asylum.
April 20, 1980 Prime Minister Fidel Castro announces that any Cuban can leave the island from the port of Mariel.
June 20, 1980 President Jimmy Carter approves the Cuban-Haitian Entrant Program (CHEP) granting Cubans and Haitians simultaneously arriving to the U.S.
October 1980 The Mariel Boatlift exodus ends with over 125,000 Cubans arriving to Florida.
August 8, 1994 Prime Minister Fidel Castro of Cuba, declares that no Cuban would be confined from leaving the island by boat.
1995 President Clinton establishes the dry foot/wet foot policy.
January 12, 2017 Obama resumes diplomatic relations with Cuba, ends the wet foot/dry foot policy, and amends the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966.


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