MIAMI – More than 43,000 Cubans immigrated to the United States during the fiscal year ending on Sept. 30, an increase of more than 77 percent compared with the previous fiscal year.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection told EFE that between Oct. 1, 2014, and Sept. 30, 2015, 43,159 Cubans arrived in the United States, while during the previous fiscal year (from October 2013 through September 2014) there were 24,278 Cuban arrivals.
That significant increase in the number of Cubans fleeing the communist island has come during the year in which Washington and Havana have been normalizing their diplomatic relations after half a century of diplomatic deep freeze and a trade embargo.
According to U.S. government figures, the main entry points for Cuban immigrants were the border crossing points with Mexico, the cities of Miami, Tampa, Buffalo and Seattle.
The great majority – 30,966 – of the immigrants crossed over the border with Mexico, according to figures compiled by border authorities in El Paso and Laredo, Tucson and San Diego.
On the other hand, 9,999 Cubans entered through the Miami airport, and another 4,000-plus were intercepted by the Coast Guard in the Florida Strait, the Caribbean and the Atlantic Ocean.
Between October 2014 and the end of September 2015 more than 4,300 Cubans tried to reach the Florida coast illegally, while 3,677 were reported to have made the attempt during the previous fiscal year.
Those illegal migrants are attempting to take advantage of the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act and its “wet foot/dry foot” policy that establishes that Cubans who manage to make it to U.S. soil may remain in this country while those who are intercepted at sea, even if they are only feet from the shore, are returned to Cuba.
According to immigration experts, the flow of illegal migrants will continue and is a result of Cubans’ fear of losing the immigration benefits after the normalization of relations between Washington and Havana, a process launched in December 2014.
Jorge Duany, the head of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University, told EFE recently that it’s a “trend that’s definitely going to keep increasing,” not only across the Florida Strait but especially along the border with Mexico.