Cubans cheer end of US ‘wet foot, dry foot’ policy

Havana, Jan 14 (IANS) Cubans have welcomed a White House decision to end “wet foot, dry foot” immigration practice that allowed undocumented Cuban migrants to remain and become permanent residents of the US.

Cubans on Friday said the longstanding policy incited some migrants to risk dangerous crossings into the US by water, Xinhua news agency reported.

On the streets of Havana, locals talked about the new measure, which is expected to promote orderly, safe and legal migration by eliminating special treatment for Cuban citizens when they illegally landed in the US.

“Over the years it was a very unfair law, because many migrants died at sea and created many inconveniences for Cuba. It was a very good decision to eliminate that policy,” state worker Lazaro Barcaza told Xinhua.

Outgoing President Barack Obama on Thursday said the US was ending this special immigration policy that granted residency to Cubans who arrived in the country without visas.

Cubans also feel the new step implies a commitment on both sides to promote orderly imigration to the US, due to its geographical proximity and the large number of Cubans who currently live there.

“We have long been waiting for that measure and it is a good step to re-establish and improve immigration ties with the US,” retiree Jose Cabrera, 77, said.

In place since 1995, the “wet foot, dry foot” policy allowed Cubans who succeeded in stepping foot on US soil — often following hazardous journeys aboard rickety boats — to remain in the country and apply for permanent residency.

Cuba has been calling for an end to the policy since 2002, but that was rejected by then-president George W. Bush.

After almost a year of negotiations with the Obama administration, the two governments reached a deal to end the polemic policy earlier this week.

The new decision is one of the measures concerning Cuba that Obama is making in his final days in office, with an eye to consolidating his foreign policy changes towards the Caribbean island.

Since formal diplomatic relations were restored in July 2015, agreements in security, energy, air transportation, environment, commerce and tourism have been signed between the two countries.

However, there is no guarantee that the next US President Donald Trump will not override them.

–IANS

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