Obama repeals policy that give Cubans easy US citizenship

January 12, 2017
US President Barack Obama

WASHINGTON (AP) —

President Barack Obama is ending a longstanding immigration policy that allows any Cuban who makes it to U.S. soil to stay and become a legal resident, a senior administration official said today.

The repeal of the "wet foot, dry foot" policy is effective immediately, according the official. The decision follows months of negotiations focused in part on getting Cuba to agree to take back people who had arrived in the U.S.

The U.S. and Cuba planned to issue a joint statement.

The official insisted on anonymity in order to detail the change ahead of the announcement.

The official said the Cubans gave no assurances about treatment of those sent back to the country, but said political asylum remains an option for those concerned about persecution if they return.

The "wet foot, dry foot" policy was put in place in 1995 by President Bill Clinton as a revision of a more liberal immigration policy. Until then, Cubans caught at sea trying to make their way to the United States were allowed into the country and were able to become legal residents after a year.

The U.S. was reluctant to send people back to the communist island then run by Fidel Castro, and the Cuban government also generally refused to accept repatriated citizens.