Cuban migration to Miami has risen sharply since President Obama’s historic December announcement that he plans to restore diplomatic relations between the two nations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection stats obtained by Miami New Times show.
In the first three months of the year, 2,701 Cubans arrived in Miami. That’s up 211 percent from the same period in 2014, when 866 Cubans landed here. And it's a 25 percent increase from the last three months of 2014, when 2,131 Cubans arrived.
Many experts attribute the rise to Cuban fears that the thawing of relations between the two countries will mean a change in U.S. policy toward immigrants from the island. Cubans currently enjoy unique immigration privileges under the "wet-foot, dry-foot" policy, or the Cuban Refugee Adjustment Act, which allows Cubans who lay their feet on American soil to remain in the country.
The situation is the same in Laredo, Texas, the main U.S. entry point for Cubans coming from Mexico, where 6,094 Cubans arrived in the first three months of the year, up from 3,020 between January and March of last year — a 102 percent jump, according to the statistics.
U.S. officials have repeatedly assured Cubans that nothing has changed in American immigration policy since Obama’s announcement.
Under the 1996 adjustment act — widely known as wet-foot, dry-foot — Cubans who reach the United States may stay in the country and apply for permanent residence after one year. Those intercepted at sea are sent back to Cuba.
In December, the U.S. Coast Guard captured 481 Cuban migrants, according to a January 14 article by Capt. Pat DeQuattro published on the website of the Council on Foreign Relations. That’s a 117 percent increase from the same month a year before.
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Earlier this month, incredible images surfaced of Cuban balseros arriving on the shores of a busy Hollywood, Florida beach.
Cuban pop culture is also echoing the new boom in raft-born migrations. Yesterday a video by the Cuban group El Chichi and Cuba 360 surfaced parodying Enrique Iglesias’ popular song "Bailando," substituting "bailando" in the chorus with "remando," or "rowing."
It's set in Havana, and the lyrics explore the ideology, politics, and misery of life on the island. The video is making waves across the internet: