Obama just ended the controversial policy that gave Cuban immigrants a free pass into the US

Now run-of-the-mill immigrants.
Now run-of-the-mill immigrants.
Image: Reuters/SEMAR handout
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Cuban immigrants will now have to stand in line like everyone else from every other country before they can legally settle in the US. Or they could sneak in.

President Barack Obama ended a more than two-decades-old policy that granted entry into the US to Cubans who made it to American shores even if they didn’t have a visa, and permanent residency after a year. As of Jan. 12 2017,  Cubans who come to the US illegally will be deported, the White House said in a statement.

Known as “wet foot, dry foot,” the old measure, adopted under president Bill Clinton amid a flood of boat migrants at the time, stipulated that Cubans intercepted at sea would be turned back; those who made it to land would be admitted. Its suspension is part of the rapprochement between the US and the island nation orchestrated by Obama and Cuban president Raúl Castro. Cuban officials had long condemned the policy, saying it encouraged Cubans to take big risks to traverse the perilous waters of the Florida Straits. Governments from other countries also frowned upon it because it gave Cubans special treatment.

Over the years, tens of thousands of Cubans have loaded into makeshift rafts to make the journey. More recently, they had been making the trip by land through Latin America, giving rise to the expression “dusty-foot” Cubans.

The tightening of US-Cuba ties that started at the end of 2014 spurred a surge of immigrants in the past couple of years. Those who made it before Jan. 12 are no doubt congratulating themselves for arriving on time.