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Obama ends another decades-old Cuba policy

Cuban President Raul Castro, right, lifts up the arm of President Barack Obama at the conclusion of their joint news conference at the Palace of the Revolution, in Havana, Cuba, March 21. Obama was joined by wife Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha in the first visit by a sitting U.S. president to the island nation in 88 years. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa, File)

In the final, lame-duck days of his term, President Barack Obama is continuing his effort to fundamentally change the relationship between Cuba and the United States.

According to multiple sources, Obama has decided to scrap the so-called "wet foot, dry foot" policy for Cuban refugees, which has been in place since 1995. The policy effectively states that if would-be Cuban immigrants are interdicted on the open sea, they may be returned to Cuba, but if they reach land, they are allowed to become legal permanent residents after one year.

However, prior to 1995, it was even easier for Cuban immigrants to gain lawful permanent residence in the U.S., as the law permitted Cubans to become permanent residents even if they were caught at sea. The "wet foot, dry foot" policy, authored by the administration of President Bill Clinton, was intended to be a compromise that would placate the totalitarian island nation.

Obama's plan would not only end this compromise but apparently would also roll back the status of Cuban refugees to what they had prior to the passage of the original Cuban Adjustment act in 1966.

This move follows the basic thrust of other unilateral decisions by the Obama administration to normalize relations with Cuba in what many contend is a flagrant violation of still-valid law. The Cuban government has long sought an end to this policy and in exchange has reportedly agreed to accept Cubans who have been issued a deportation order in the United States.

President-elect Trump has been critical of many of Obama's recent actions toward Cuba, but at the time of this article's publication, he had not yet commented on whether he planned to attempt to reverse Obama's decision in this regard.

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