WASHINGTON – US Republican Sen. Marco Rubio has hinted the country’s President-elect may reinstate a program, scrapped on Thursday by President Barack Obama, that allowed Cuban doctors serving in international health brigades to apply for asylum.
Rubio – himself of Cuban origin – said he is optimistic Trump’s administration will reverse this part of Obama’s decision and allow these doctors to request for asylum at US embassies and consulates.
Terming the international missions Cuban health professionals are sent on as means of political repression, he said “for decades, the (Cuba’s) Castro regime has forced thousands of doctors to go abroad as a tool of its foreign policy.”
Earlier on Thursday, Obama had repealed the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program (CMPPP), as well as the “Wet foot, Dry foot” policy adopted in 1995, that allowed undocumented Cuban migrants to stay if they managed to touch US soil.
With a week left for him in office, Obama thus ended a policy that entailed preferential treatment for Cuban migrants in the US, as compared to those from other countries.
While admitting, in its current form, the migration policy towards the island has led to “growing abuses” of the system, Rubio opined it was necessary to ensure “Cubans who arrive here to escape political persecution are not summarily returned to the regime.”
The repeal of the two programs had been one of the Cuban administration’s long-standing demands, and one of its requests during the thaw in Washington-Havana relations begun December 2014, led by Obama and Raul Castro.
Cuba has a policy of sending doctors’ brigades to countries lacking health professionals or those reeling under serious epidemics, particularly in Africa and Latin America.
However, Obama said the CMPPP’s preferential treatment for the island’s medical personnel “risks harming the Cuban people” and contradicts the efforts of both the US and Cuba “to combat diseases that endanger the health and lives of our people.”