The United States will no longer grant residency to Cuban immigrants arriving without visas, ending the 20-year-old policy known as “wet-foot/dry foot”.
A White House statement claimed that the decision was part of its ongoing effort to warm relations with Cuba. This will no doubt put a stop to the growing population of Cuban immigrants in America.
According to a Pew Research Center analysis, the number of Cuban immigrants entering the U.S. has increased significantly since President Obama began his rapprochement with the island’s government. In the 2014 fiscal year, 24,278 Cubans arrived in the U.S. Nearly double that number – 43,159 – arrived in 2015, and more than that arrived last year.
The change in policy has jolted Cuban immigrants waiting at the Mexican border on the way to the United States.
Under the old policy, Cuban immigrants hoping to live legally in the U.S. needed only to show up at a port of entry, where they could pass an inspection, which included a check of criminal and immigration history in the U.S. They could then become legal permanent residents after a year.
“By taking this step, we are treating Cuban migrants the same way we treat migrants from other countries,” stated the White House. That means, Cubans who now attempt to enter the U.S. without a visa will be deported, whether they arrive by sea or port of entry.
According to Pew Research, there are two million people of Cuban ancestry living in the U.S., the fourth largest Hispanic origin group behind Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and Salvadorans.
It is not clear whether President-elect Donald Trump would continue Obama’s policy towards Cuba. But the research firm says a large majority of Americans support the country’s warming relations with the island nation and public support is growing for ending the trade embargo.
“Thousands of Cubans have migrated to the U.S. by land. Many fly to Ecuador because of the country’s liberal immigration policies, then travel north through Central America and Mexico,” said Pew Research.