Obama ending special immigration policy for Cubans -sources

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By Patricia Zengerle and Eric Beech | WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON The Obama administration is ending a
policy that granted residency to Cubans who arrived in the
United States without visas, several congressional sources said
on Thursday.

The change in the policy, known as “wet foot, dry foot,” is
effective immediately. The Department of Homeland Security is
also ending a policy for Cuban medical professionals, known as
the parole program.

The policy change, which had been in the works for months,
was made abruptly because advance warning might have inspired
thousands more Cubans to take to the seas between the island and
Florida in order to beat a deadline. “Otherwise you’d put lives
at risk,” one congressional aide said.

The end of the “wet foot, dry foot” policy was first
reported by the Associated Press, citing a senior administration
official.

The United States and Cuba have spent several months
negotiating the change, including an agreement from Cuba to
allow those turned away from the United States to return, the
official said, according to AP.

The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to a
request for comment from Reuters.

President Barack Obama has been working to normalize
relations with Cuba since he and President Raul Castro announced
a breakthrough in diplomatic relations in December 2014.

The move to end the residency policy comes just eight days
before Obama turns the White House over to Republican Donald
Trump, who has said the United States should get more
concessions from Havana in exchange for improved relations.

U.S. immigration policy has given Cubans benefits granted to
nationals from no other country. Until now, virtually every
Cuban who made it to U.S. soil was granted the right to stay in
the country, the right to apply for work permits and, later,
green cards, which convey lawful permanent residency.

Some U.S. lawmakers have been demanding a fresh look at
Cuban immigration policy in the past few years.



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