11:53 GMT05 March 2021
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    The Obama administration has repealed the 20-year-old “wet foot, dry foot” policy which allowed Cubans arriving in the US without a visa to become permanent residents. Armando Fernández Steinko, a Complutense University professor in Madrid, discussed the move in an interview with Sputnik Mundo.

    On Thursday, Obama declared the repeal of the “wet foot, dry foot” policy effective immediately, meaning that any Cuban who now arrives in the US risks being sent back.

    “President Obama’s surprise decision to end the ‘“wet foot, dry foot’” policy, which gave legal status to any escapees from Cuba who reached US soil, is vital for Cuba, which has suffered from decades of US-encouraged  brain drain from the island,” Professor Steinko told Sputnik Mundo.

    “This is also a welcome departure from Cold War logic,” he added.

    He compared the relations between Cuba and the US with the two Germanys of the Cold War-era where East Germans enjoyed the same privileges in West Germany as Cuban migrants did in the United States.

    Both [West Germany and the US] tried to attract migrants in order to weaken the opposite side,” Professor Steinko noted.

    Meanwhile, members of the rabidly anti-Castro-minded Cuban-American population, most of them living in Florida, were by and large muted on lifting of the immigration privileges granted to their fellow Cubans, and even welcomed it.

    Professor Steinko explains this by the fact that most of the US-based Cuban-Americans are descendants of the first wave of Cuban immigrants who moved stateside right after the 1959 ouster of President Fulgencio Batista.

    “They consider themselves superior to their ‘less privileged’ compatriots and look down on them,” he said.

    “The problem with political immigrants from Cuba is that these people are all reactionaries. They talk about Cuba but what they really have in mind is the privileged class of Cubans they belong to. These don’t care much about their country; all they care for are their own interests.They support the Republican Party and those who call for tougher sanctions against Cuba,” he added.

    He also mentioned the so-called Parole program that encouraged Cuban doctors working abroad not to go back by offering them residence permits in the US.

    “It was done as part of a general policy to harm Cuba and other countries by 'sucking out' their brains with the help of facilitated immigration,” Armando Fernández Steinko noted.

    The original “wet foot, dry foot” policy was launched in 1995, after protests in Cuba forced Fidel Castro to tell Cubans that “whoever wants to leave, is free to go.”

    More than 35,000 then crossed the 90 miles separating Cuba from the Florida coast on boats and rafts.

    Since then, the Cuban population in the US has grown to over 2 million, making it the third largest Hispanic population in the US.

    There has been a surge in Cuban immigrants entering the US after President Barack Obama began normalizing relations with the country in 2014.

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    normalization, brain drain, new policy, immigration, Fidel Castro, Barack Obama, Armando Fernández Steinko, US, Cuba
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