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Posted: 7:28 a.m. Friday, Jan. 13, 2017

Obama ends 'wet foot, dry foot' immigration status for Cuban migrants

Cuban migrants
Gregory Ewald/ U.S. Coast Guard/ Getty Images
In this U.S. Coast Guard handout, Cuban migrants trying to reach the U.S. coast in Florida ride a makeshift boat made out of a 1951 Chevrolet truck with a propeller driven off the drive shaft July 16, 2003 off the coast of Florida. The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Key Largo returned the12 Cuban migrants from the vessel back to Cuba after making it within 40 miles of Key West, Florida. The photograph was released a week after the crew was repatriated. 

By Natalie Dreier

Cox Media Group National Content Desk


In what could be one of President Barack Obama's last major foreign policy initiatives, the administration has stopped the special status for migrants leaving Cuba.

Prior to Thursday, migrants fleeing communist Cuba were allowed to stay in the United States under what was called a "wet foot, dry foot" policy, The Washington Post reported.

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It had allowed those escaping Cuba to the United States without a visa to become permanent residents, CNN reports.

Now migrants from Cuba will need visas like those from any other country.

The "wet foot, dry foot" policy stated that Cubans picked up at sea were returned to their home country, but those who made it to land were allowed to stay under President Bill Clinton's administration.

But that wasn't the first time Cubans were allowed into the U.S. without official paperwork. President Lyndon Johnson started the "open door" policy for refugees, CNN reported.

The Cuban government agreed to the change in policy, saying in a statement that the change is "an important step in the advance of bilateral relations" guaranteeing "regular, safe and orderly migration," The Washington Post reported.