Obama making changes to Cuban immigration policy
President Barack Obama is ending a longstanding immigration policy that allows any Cuban who makes it to U.S. soil to stay and become a legal resident, a senior administration official said Thursday.
The repeal of the “wet foot, dry foot” policy is effective immediately, according the official. The decision follows months of negotiations focused in part on getting Cuba to agree to take back people who had arrived in the U.S.
The official said the Cubans gave no assurances about treatment of those sent back to the country, but said political asylum remains an option for those concerned about persecution if they return.
Obama is using an administrative rule change to end the policy. Donald Trump could undo that rule after becoming president next week. He has criticized Obama’s moves to improve relations with Cuba.
The “wet foot, dry foot” policy was put in place in 1995 by President Bill Clinton as a revision of a more liberal policy. Until then, Cubans caught at sea trying to make their way to the United States were allowed into the country and were able to become legal residents after a year. The U.S. was reluctant to send people back to the communist island then run by Fidel Castro, and the Cuban government also generally refused to accept repatriated citizens.
The Cuban government has in the past complained about the special immigration privileges, saying they encourage Cubans to risk dangerous escape trips and drain the country of professionals.
President Barack Obama speaks at the Grand Theater of Havana, Cuba.