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Obama announces the end of the “wet foot, dry foot” policy for Cuban refugees

22. March 2016: President Barack Obama speaks in the Grand Theater of Havana, Cuba.

(AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, file)

President Barack Obama announced on Thursday that he came to an end a long-standing immigration policy that allows any Cuban that it’s on U.S. soil to stay and in a residence in.

In a statement, Obama, the so-called “wet foot, dry foot said,” policy was “a different era” of U.S.-Cuba relations.

Under the new policy, effective immediately, Cubans, trying to get into the U.S. illegally, without the qualification for humanitarian aid to be sent-back to the island.

“With this step,” Obama said, “we are the treatment of Cuban migrants, the same way we treat immigrants from other countries.”

Obama added, to accept that the Havana government had agreed to Cubans ordered to leave the United States, a concession, which was a focus of months of negotiations. A senior administration official told the Associated Press that the Cubans gave no assurances about the treatment of people returned to that country, but said political asylum is an option for those concerned about the persecution when they return.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said the move is “a long way to go, until we our relations with Cuba on an equal footing with our relations with other neighbors.”

Obama will change an administrative rule to the end of the policy. President-elect Donald Trump could undo the rule that he has sworn, in the next week. He has criticized Obama’s moves to improve relations with Cuba. But the termination of a policy that has allowed hundreds of thousands of people come to the United States without a visa to Trump’s commitment to the tough policy on immigration.

The “wet foot, dry foot” policy was the policy in the year 1995 by then-President Bill Clinton as a revision of a more liberal immigration. To try until then, Cubans caught at sea to find their way in the United States were allowed into the country and were able to legal residents after a year. The US was reluctant to send the people back to the Communist island from Fidel Castro and the Cuban government, also in the rule, to accept, refused citizens repatriated.

The Cuban government has in the past complained bitterly about the special immigration privileges that say that they encourage the Cubans to risk dangerous escape journeys, and let the Land of the professionals. But it also served as a valve for the one-party state, so that most of the dissatisfied Cubans a better life outside sources of financial support for the relatives on the island.

The relations between the United States and Cuba are stuck in a Cold war freeze in decades, but Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro established the full diplomatic relations and opened embassies in the capitals, in 2015. Obama Havana visited last March.

U.S. and Cuban officials met in Washington on Thursday to coordinate efforts in the fight against human trafficking. A decades-old U.S. embargo, though, remains in place, such as the Cuban Adjustment Act that allows Cubans to permanent residence one year after legally arriving in the United States

The official said that in recent years, most of the people fleeing from the island have done, for economic reasons, or take advantage of the benefits that you know that you can receive, if you are in the USA

The official also cited an upward trend in the Cuban migration, especially on the U.S.-Mexico border, an increase of the officials said reflected the expectation among Cubans that the Obama administration would soon end their special legal status.

Since October 2012, more than 118,000 Cubans have imagined, in the ports of entry at the border, according to the statistics, released by the Homeland Security Department. During the 2016 budget year that ended in September, a five-year high of more than 41,500 people came through the southern border. An additional 7,000 people arrived between October and November.

The influx has created, the burden on other countries in the region have to fight the Cubans, the not yet to reach the U.S. border, the official said.

The Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program, which was signed by President George W. Bush in 2006, is also repealed. The measure will allow Cuban physicians to seek nurses and other medical professionals parole in the United States, while for foreign missions.

Persons already in the pipeline-both under the “wet foot, dry foot” and the medical parole program will be able to continue the process in the direction of the first legal status.

The preferential treatment for Cubans, the political power of the Cuban-Americans, especially in Florida, a critical state in presidential elections. This is a shift in the last few years. Older Cubans, especially those who fled the Castro regime, tend to reject Obama’s diplomatic overtures to Cuba. Younger Cuban-American voters have proven to be less likely than their parents and grandparents, their policy of U.S.-Cuba relations. Exit polls show President Barack Obama managed around a split in the Florida Cuban vote in 2012, and Trump in November of the same group won by a much narrower margin than in many previous Republican candidates.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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