Ahead of his final goodbye, President Barack Obama ended the “wet foot, dry foot” policy on Thursday (Jan. 12).
The decision eliminates a decades-long policy that many believed gave preferential treatment to one set of migrants, as it granted permanent residence to Cubans who arrived to the United States without a visa.
According to CNN, Cubans already inside the United States will be unaffected by the change, which nullifies the guidelines put in place under the Clinton administration. “By taking this step, we are treating Cuban migrants the same way we treat migrants from other countries,” Obama wrote in a statement.
“The United States, a land of immigrants, has been enriched by the contributions of Cuban-Americans for more than a century,” he continued. “Since I took office, we have put the Cuban-American community at the center of our policies. With this change we will continue to welcome Cubans as we welcome immigrants from other nations, consistent with our laws.”
The decision is likely Obama’s last move in his historic dealings with Cuba since restoring ties with the island in 2014, CNN reports.
“During my administration, we worked to improve the lives of the Cuban people – inside of Cuba – by providing them with greater access to resources, information and connectivity to the wider world,” Obama said. “Sustaining that approach is the best way to ensure that Cubans can enjoy prosperity, pursue reforms and determine their own destiny.”
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