Why did Cuban immigrants come to America

No Cuban paddles to Florida anymore

Pavel Rodríguez ’* dream burst in January. For the time being. Like so many Cubans, he had sold an apartment and a car in order to take the money to the USA, where his brother was already waiting for him. After the Cuban Adjustment Act passed in 1966, Washington granted all Cuban "refugees" political asylum and quick naturalization without any problems. In 1995 this law was restricted by the "wet foot, dry foot" provision. Accordingly, only Cubans who reached "dry-footed" US territory were able to benefit from this regulation. This immigration policy, in turn, was responsible for the fact that every year several thousand Cubans sold their belongings and often ventured the dangerous route across the strait between Cuba and Florida in barely seaworthy vehicles. For decades, Cuban boat refugees attempting to reach the south coast of Florida on rafts and car tires created dramatic images.

A few days ago the US Coast Guard reported sensational news: "April was the first month in seven years in which we had no Cuban migrant, not one," Coast Guard commander Paul F. Zukunft told the US daily Wall Street Journal «. "On an ordinary day in this time of the year a year ago, we would have picked up between 50 and 150 Cuban migrants."

A total of 5,396 Cuban migrants were arrested by the US Coast Guard on the high seas last year.

The drastic change has above all to do with one of Barack Obama's last office decisions as US President. On January 12, a few days before the handover of power to his successor Donald Trump, Obama lifted the preferential treatment of Cuban immigrants, according to which Cubans were given permanent right to stay when entering the United States. The "Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program" (CMPP) issued by then US President George W. Bush in 2006, according to which "deserted" Cuban doctors were allowed to enter the USA without any problems and were granted residence permits, was also canceled. "Cubans who come to the United States illegally and who are not entitled to humanitarian assistance will be sent back from now on," Obama affirmed.

The Cuban government had repeatedly called for an end to this US immigration policy, which was specifically aimed at Cubans. It would not correspond to the spirit of approximation. “It is clear that the repeal of the“ wet foot, dry foot ”policy is responsible for the fact that the number of boat refugees has declined, says Paul F. Zukunft.

A similar development can also be seen on the border between the USA and Mexico. As of April, only 191 Cubans were registered as "unauthorized" by US border officials.

When the rapprochement between the USA and Cuba began in December 2014, the number of Cubans leaving the country skyrocketed in anticipation of the early end of preferential treatment for Cuban migrants. The number of Cuban immigrants in the USA doubled from 23,740 in 2014 to 54,000 in 2016. The majority chose the route through Central America or Mexico.

This in turn caused a migration crisis in the region at the end of 2015. When Nicaragua closed its border with Costa Rica to Cubans in mid-November 2015, thousands of Cubans were suddenly stuck there. Only after weeks of negotiations did the Central American states agree on airlifts to deal with the migration crisis. At the same time, they increased pressure on Washington to end preferential treatment for Cuban migrants. Hundreds of Cubans who were already "on their way" to the USA were surprised by Obama's decision and were suddenly stuck in Panama, Colombia, Costa Rica or Mexico.

Pavel Rodríguez also hopes that his dream of the USA will come true after all. After all, he got a visa for Mexico. Before Obama's decision, this would have been the stepping stone to cross the border and apply for "asylum" in the United States and take advantage of the "wet foot, dry foot" rule. Instead, he has now "bought" a Mexican residence permit. "Everything can be done with money in Mexico," says Rodríguez with a broad grin. With that he can now travel back and forth between Mexico and Cuba. "In a few months I will then apply for a visitor visa for the USA," he says. “I don't want to stay there. People think this is paradise out there; but I like Cuba. But I want to see my family - and every now and then a change in the air is good. "

* Name changed

nd journalism from the left thrives on the commitment of its readers

In view of the experience of the corona pandemic, we have decided to make our journalism permanently freely accessible on our website and thus make it available to everyone who is interested.

As with our print and epaper editions, our work as an author, editor, technician or publishing employee is reflected in every published article. It is what makes this journalism possible.

Volunteer now with just a few clicks!