The U.S. has ended a preferential policy toward Cubans who arrived in the country illegally.
A report on Friday in Washington said that under most circumstances they would henceforth be sent home rather than allowed to apply for residency.
The White House said in a statement that the change means people who flee the communist country, would be treated the same way migrants from other countries are treated.
“Effective immediately, Cuban nationals who attempt to enter the U.S. illegally and do not qualify for humanitarian relief will be subject to removal, consistent with U.S. law and enforcement priorities.
“The U.S. is also ending a programme that gave preferential treatment to Cuban medical personnel seeking entry to the US.
The statement recalled that the so-called “wet-foot/dry foot” policy was put in place more than 20 years ago and was designed for a different era.
It said the policy allowed anyone who fled Cuba and made it to U.S. soil to stay and pursue residency, while people stopped at sea were sent back.
The White House called the move an important step forward in President Barack Obama’s effort to normalise relations with Cuba.
You will recall that Obama re-established diplomatic relations with Havana last year, ending more than five decades of isolation with its Cold War foe.
The Cuban government has agreed to accept the return of Cuban nationals who are sent back, just as it has been accepting the return of migrants intercepted at sea.