Obama Ends Decades Old Immigration Policy for Cuban Migrants

Barack Obama when he addressed the Cuban people in Havana back in March 2016

More recently, it's been hard to reconcile the preferential status for Cubans when thousands of unaccompanied minors fleeing violence in Central America have been arriving at the southern US border. Cuban migrants who have already begun the process of applying for legal residency through the program will be allowed to continue.

By giving this step -the statement stresses- we are treating Cuban immigrants in the same manner that We deal with immigrants from other countries.

"Effective immediately, Cuban nationals who attempt to enter the US illegally and do not qualify for humanitarian relief will be subject to removal, consistent with USA law and enforcement priorities". The program allowed Cuban medical professionals to seek parole in the United States while on assignments overseas.

The end of the "wet foot, dry foot" policy, which allowed any Cuban who reached United States soil to stay but returned any picked up at sea, is effective immediately as of Thursday.

Prior to Thursday, migrants fleeing communist Cuba were allowed to stay in the United States under what was called a "wet foot, dry foot" policy, The Washington Post reported.

According to the Associated Press, the policy shift, which is effective immediately, is part of the process of normalizing relations between the USA and Cuba.

Known as "wet foot, dry foot", the old measure, adopted under president Bill Clinton amid a flood of boat migrants at the time, stipulated that Cubans intercepted at sea would be turned back; those who made it to land would be admitted.

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According to multiple sources, Obama has made a decision to scrap the so-called "wet foot, dry foot" policy for Cuban refugees, which has been in place since 1995.

Normally, the Coast Guard returns migrants that it interdicts at sea to their home country, including Cubans.

Passed in 1966, the Cuban Adjustment Act has offered any citizen of Cuba admission and permanent residence in the United States after spending one year in the country, with no yearly quota on immigrants. "The "wet foot, dry foot" policy has been an enduring problem that decades of hostility and isolation failed to solve".

Obama's decision comes a week before President-elect Donald Trump is inaugurated, and as the former tries to solidify the reopening of USA diplomatic engagement with Cuba. Anyone who tries to come to the USA without a visa will be repatriated.

Many immigrants said they made the trip out of fear that the USA would eventually cancel wet-foot/dry-foot immigration benefits as part of the normalization of relations.

The dry-foot policy was added in a 1995 revision of the Cuban Adjustment Act, the 1966 legislation meant to isolate Cuba, which Obama has worked to eliminate.

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