Since the U.S. and Cuba normalized relations almost two years ago, Cuban migration here has surged. But a new study shows us just how dramatic that wave has become.
In fiscal 2014, the number of Cubans migrating to the U.S. was fewer than 25,000. But then, in December 2014, President Obama announced renewed diplomatic ties with the communist island. And in fiscal 2015 the number of Cuban migrants shot up 72 percent, to more than 43,000.
The Pew Research Center says that trend is only escalating. Already in the first 10 months of fiscal 2016 – meaning from last October through July – almost 47,000 Cubans have entered the U.S. That puts the traffic on pace to reach 56,000 this fiscal year.
The reasons are two-fold. For one, even Cuban President Raúl Castro concedes his island’s threadbare economy is in deeper trouble.
But the biggest reason is sheer panic. Since Washington and Havana are no longer mortal enemies, Cubans fear they’ll soon lose the U.S. immigration privileges they enjoy. The U.S. has said there are no plans to repeal them. Even so, many say they want to get in before it’s too late.
Unlike the rafter days of the past, most Cubans now arrive in the U.S. by land. But more Central and South American countries are blocking their passage. Colombia, for example, just announced plans to deport thousands of Cuban migrants heading toward the U.S.
As a result, the Cuban surge may well decline next year.