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First Cuba migrants reach US border from Costa Rica

[JURIST] Approximately 180 Cuban migrants crossed the US border on Friday as part of an organized Central American effort to transport the 8,000 Cubans stranded in Costa Rica. Following recent diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba, thousands of Cubans are attempting to seek asylum [New Yorker report] in the US fearing that migration policies for Cubans might soon change. The Cuban Adjustment Act [materials], through a provision added in 1995 which is informally called the Wet Foot/Dry Foot policy, requires that Cubans seeking asylum reach land to avoid being returned to Cuba. In recent months, waves of Cuban migrants have been fleeing to Ecuador and attempting to reach the US border through Central American countries. However, migrants were forced to remain in Costa Rica, Panama, and Ecuador last November when Nicaragua closed its borders [AP report]. Following negotiations with Central American leaders, Costa Rica reached an agreement to fly Cuban migrants to El Salvador where the migrants can travel to the US through Mexico. Central American countries will continue the airlift program through the next three weeks, and the same program may be initiated for the 3,000 Cuban migrants in Panama should their efforts be proven successful.

After a decades-long strained relationship between the US and Cuba, the US completed [JURIST report] the re-opening of diplomatic ties with Cuba last July by converting the standing US Interests Section into the US Embassy Havana. President Obama began to take steps in late 2014 to improve the diplomatic relationship [JURIST backgrounder] between the two countries. In April, President Obama announced [NYT report] that he would be removing Cuba from the State Sponsors of Terrorism [text] list, which enumerates countries that sponsor terrorism. President Obama completed Cuba's removal [JURIST report] from the list in May as a positive step towards restoring diplomatic relations between the nations. Also in April, a bill [JURIST report] was introduced in the House of Representatives that proposed tying any further removal of sanctions against Cuba to the nation's human rights record.

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