Obama's end to 'wet foot, dry foot' is an 'important step,' says Cuba

Agence France-Presse
A boy wears the U.S. colors in Havana, Cuba, January 12, 2017.

The Cuban government on Thursday welcomed a US decision to end a decades-old policy allowing Cuban migrants who arrived illegally on US soil to stay, calling it "an important step forward in bilateral relations."

US President Barack Obama announced earlier Thursday that he would scrap rules that allow Cuban migrants who arrive illegally on US soil a fast track to permanent residency, with immediate effect.

"This agreement removes the so-called wet foot/dry foot policy," Raul Castro's government said in an official statement broadcast on local television.

The decision, it said, is "aimed at guaranteeing normal, safe and ordered migration" and ending the acceptance of illegal Cuban emigres to the United States.

It also welcomed Obama's decision to rescind a program allowing Cuban medical professionals to seek parole in the United States.

However, Havana also called on the US Congress to repeal the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, another measure that still gives Cubans preferential immigration status, and which the Cuban government said "does not correspond to the current bilateral context."

Cuba "will continue to guarantee Cuban citizens the right to travel and emigrate and return to the country, in accordance with immigration law," the statement said.

The Cuban government said it would also "gradually adopt other measures to update the current immigration policy."

The United States' preferential immigration status for Cubans enticed millions to flee the island, fueling economic stasis and a severe "brain drain."

Meanwhile in the United States, the growing Cuban-American population became a potent political, cultural and economic force.

Will you support The World?

There is no paywall on the story you just read because a community of dedicated listeners and readers have contributed to keep the global news you rely on free and accessible for all. Will you join the 314 donors who’ve stepped up to support The World? From now until Dec. 31, your gift will help us unlock a $67,000 match. Donate today to double your impact and keep The World free and accessible.