Obama mak­ing changes to Cuban im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - NEWS - By Ali­cia A. Cald­well and Julie Pace

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.

DES­MOND BOYLAN — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama speaks at the Grand Theater of Havana, Cuba.

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