US ends wet foot, dry foot policy; Cubans now face same fate as other illegal immigrants
WASHINGTON – In one of his final acts as US president, Barack Obama has put an end to the so-called “wet foot, dry foot” policy that allowed Cubans who land on American soil to stay in the country while those caught at sea were sent home.
The policy was implemented more than 20 years ago. But in a statement last week, President Obama said that in an effort to move forward in America’s normalization of relations with Cuba and bring greater consistency to its immigration policy, it would end with immediate effect.
“Effective immediately, Cuban nationals who attempt to enter the United States illegally and do not qualify for humanitarian relief will be subject to removal, consistent with US law and enforcement priorities,” he said.
“By taking this step, we are treating Cuban migrants the same way we treat migrants from other countries.”
The repeal of the controversial policy was welcomed by Havana which has long called for it to end.
The Cuban government has agreed to accept the return of Cuban nationals who have been ordered removed, just as it has been accepting the return of migrants interdicted at sea.
At the same time, President Obama announced that the Department of Homeland Security was also ending the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Programme. That programme allowed Cuban medical personnel conscripted to study or work in a third country under the direction of the Cuban government to enter the United States.
President Obama said the US and Cuba were working together to combat diseases that endanger the health and lives of our people and by providing preferential treatment to Cuban medical personnel, the medical parole programme contradicted those efforts, and risked harming the Cuban people.
“Cuban medical personnel will now be eligible to apply for asylum at US embassies and consulates around the world, consistent with the procedures for all foreign nationals,” the American leader said.