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Published: Sat, January 14, 2017
Economy | By Melissa Porter

President Obama Ends 'Wet Foot, Dry Foot' Policy for Cuban Immigrants

President Obama Ends 'Wet Foot, Dry Foot' Policy for Cuban Immigrants

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

The executive order states that Cubans trying to get illegally into the U.S. and does not qualify for human aid will be subject to be returned according to the US laws.

The White House said in a statement that the change means people who flee the communist country, would be treated the same way migrants from other countries are treated.

Raul Castro has agreed to accept back the Cuban refugees the US returns as a result of the end of "Wet Foot, Dry Foot".

As it got dark on Thursday evening, Cuban Americans congregated in the light put out by the cafecito window of Versailles, the Cuban café on Calle Ocho, to talk about the sudden end of decades-old policy granting Cuban migrants special status in USA immigration.

Instead, the United States government will consider residency requests from these Cubans in the same way other migrants are processed when they arrive into the country.

The "wet foot, dry foot" policy mostly allows Cubans who reach US soil to stay in the country.

A USA economic embargo instituted in 1959 during the rise of Fidel Castro, who died in November at 90, remains in place.

In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Cuban Adjustment Act which allowed Cubans to become American citizens after living in the United States for two years - essentially granting Cubans an "open door" to the United States.

The old policy, he said, "seemed particularly unfair when children and families fleeing violence in Central America are subject to deportation". Shortly after the decision, the local NBC affiliate reported mixed reactions from the crowd at Versailles Restaurant in Little Havana.

Many Cubans in the U.S. say Washington is rewarding a regime which has failed to address human rights concerns. If everything checks out, they are allowed to enter the USA under a law that is usually reserved for "individual cases of exceptionally compelling humanitarian or national interest".

"Obama has screwed all Cubans", Yadiel Cruz, a 33-year-old in a Catholic shelter in Panama City, told AFP on learning the USA president had suddenly made it tougher for migrants like him to get into America.

According to multiple sources, Obama has chose to scrap the so-called "wet foot, dry foot" policy for Cuban refugees, which has been in place since 1995. Under the policy, Cubans who reach American soil can stay in the country.

President-elect Donald Trump, who has been critical of improving relations with Cuba, could undo the new rule after taking office.

"Havana said that with this policy in place, there was no point in two countries trying to normalise relations", she said.

Many who leave use makeshift rafts to cross the Straits of Florida into the United States.

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