Q24N (EFE) Cuban immigration to the United States grew by almost 80 percent in 2015 out of fear that the thaw in relations between Washington and Havana might at any time put an end to the advantages Cubans currently enjoy the minute they set foot on U.S. territory.
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Since Barack Obama and Raul Castro announced to the world on Dec. 17, 2014, their determination to reestablish diplomatic relations, the chaotic diaspora of Cuban refugees has continued non-stop, full speed ahead and on an enormous scale.
For example, during the past fiscal year between Oct. 1, 2014, and Sept. 30, 2015, more than 43,000 Cubans reached U.S. soil, 77 percent more than in the previous fiscal year, according to official figures.
Whether by sea to the coast of Florida or by land across the Mexican border, or by air on commercial flights, this new Cuban exodus has a very concrete explanation.
The thaw, which was greeted very positively by the Cuban people, has failed to spur any improvement in the island’s economy under a regime of such ironclad centralization as Cuba’s.
In such an atmosphere of distrust and out of fear that U.S. authorities will very soon change the immigration policy toward Cuba, many Cubans, particularly the young, are packing their bags and leaving the island.
The Cuban Adjustment Act accepts Cubans who land on American soil under the “wet food, dry foot” policy, while those intercepted at sea are deported back to the island.
While this influx of Cuban immigrants is not yet considered a “massive exodus” by U.S. authorities, that description is not very far from the truth.
For example, an average of 200 Cubans arrive daily at Puerto Obaldia, a small village on the Panamanian Caribbean, on their long, arduous journey to the United States.
A particular cause for alarm in past months has been the numbers of Cuban refugees headed north up the Central American isthmus, which became a quandary for countries belonging to the Central American Integration System after Nicaragua blocked Cubans from crossing its territory in mid-November.
Due to the Nicaraguan barrier, some 4,600 refugees are currently stranded in Costa Rica, a country that is negotiating a diplomatic solution with Belize so the migrants can get around Nicaragua and continue on to the United States.
Most Cuban migrants have passports and fly to Ecuador, the only country of the hemisphere that does not demand a visa, and from there they set out on their irregular journeys by land and sea across Colombia and Panama until they reach Coast Rica.
In the opinion of Silvia Pedraza, sociology professor at the University of Michigan, the reality is that “Cuban youths, who are the majority of those who want to leave the island, don’t believe they have any future there.”
The United States has already dealt with several waves of immigrants, the most significant of which took place in 1980 during the Mariel crisis, when over 125,000 Cubans landed on the Florida coast in some 2,000 small boats and rafts.