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Obama ends immigration policy for Cuban migrants to normalise relations

The repeal of the 20-year-old immigration policy is effective immediately

Press Trust of India  |  Washington 

Barack Obama, US President, farewell speech, obama speech
US President Barack Obama (Photo: Reuters)

President has ended a two-decade-old "wet foot, dry foot" policy that allowed who reach soil illegally to stay and become legal residents, a significant step towards normalising relations with its former Cold War foe.

The repeal of the longstanding policy, coming in the last days of the administration, is effective immediately.

"The Department of Homeland Security is ending the so-called 'wet-foot, dry foot' policy, which was put in place more than twenty years ago and was designed for a different era," said in a statement on Thursday.

He said the is taking important steps to normalise relations with the communist nation and to bring greater consistency to its policy.

"Effective immediately, Cuban nationals who attempt to enter the United States illegally and do not qualify for humanitarian relief will be subject to removal, consistent with law and enforcement priorities," he said.

The decision follows months of negotiations focused in part on getting to agree to take back people who had arrived in the

"By taking this step, we are treating the same way we treat from other countries. The Cuban government has agreed to accept the return of Cuban nationals who have been ordered removed, just as it has been accepting the return of interdicted at sea," he said.

The "wet foot, dry foot" policy mostly allows Cubans who reach soil to stay in the country. Those caught at sea are returned to

The Cuban government praised the move. In a statement read on state television, it called the signing of the agreement "an important step in advancing relations" between the and that "aims to guarantee normal, safe and ordered migration."

The decision is expected to weigh upon the strategy of President-elect Donald Trump, who had vowed to renegotiate ties with

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said that in addition to the revoking the "wet-foot/dry-foot" policy for Cuban migrants, the United States is also ending the special Cuban Medical Professional Parole program.

Johnson said these actions are part of the ongoing normalisation of relations between the governments of the United States and

"and the United States will work to further discourage unlawful migration to the United States and promote bilateral cooperation to prevent and prosecute alien smuggling and other crimes related to illegal migration," Johnson said.

First Published: Fri, January 13 2017. 14:02 IST