Obama Ends Preferential Asylum Policy for Cuban Migrants
U.S. President Barack Obama said Thursday he is immediately ending the so-called "wet foot, dry foot" policy that let any Cuban who steps foot on U.S. soil remain in the United States without a visa.
Obama said in a statement that the 20-year-old policy was designed for a "different era."
"By taking this step, we are treating Cuban migrants the same way we treat migrants from other countries," he said. "
Obama called it an important step in normalizing relations with Cuba.
The president said Cuba has agreed to take back Cuban migrants who arrive in the U.S. without permission the same way it has been accepting migrants whom the U.S. Coast Guard picks up at sea.
Obama said the Department of Homeland Security also is ending the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program, which allowed Cuban doctors and medical professionals working in a third-world country to enter the U.S.
Obama said they may now apply for asylum at U.S. embassies the same way any foreign national would.
Former President Bill Clinton approved the "wet foot, dry foot" policy in 1995, when Cubans who were returned home after trying to escape were subjected to harsh treatment and more repression.
The U.S. and Cuba restored full diplomatic ties in 2015. Although the trade embargo against Cuba continues, hostilities between the Washington and Havana have eased substantially.
US Set to Lift Some Sanctions Against Sudan
The Obama administration is set to lift some financial sanctions against Sudan, senior U.S. officials said Thursday.
The White House is expected to make the announcement Friday. The easing of sanctions is in response to positive actions by the Sudanese government in fighting terrorism, reducing conflict, denying safe haven to South Sudanese rebels and improving humanitarian access to people in need.
The United States first imposed sanctions on Sudan in 1997, including a trade embargo and blocking the government's assets, for human rights violations and terrorism concerns. The United States layered on more sanctions in 2006 for what it said was complicity in the violence in Darfur.
Sudanese Information Minister Ahmed Bilal, speaking with VOA's James Butty, welcomed the news of the lifting of the sanctions because, he said, they "have had a devastating impact on the country and its people." He said sanctions increased "the misery of the people" who could not leave the country to get medical treatment or import technology.
U.S. officials said the lifting of the sanctions had no bearing on Sudan's designation by the United States as a state sponsor of terrorism. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and genocide.