Immigration Swells as US-Cuban Relations Improve

While the eyes of the world are locked on the immigration crisis along the Mediterranean coast of Europe, the United States is in the midst of its own surge of new immigrants from a decades-old source of immigration: Cuba.

The United States has seen masses of Cuban immigration before, related to the 1966 policy that allowed any Cuban able to enter the United States to pursue permanent legal residency.

Changes to the policy over the years have altered the ways that immigrants entered the U.S. An example would be the wet foot/dry foot amendment from the Clinton administration. This made it so that Cubans who entered the U.S. on the ground were still able to seek citizenship. However, Cubans found attempting to enter the U.S. from the sea could still be deported back to Cuba or to a third country.

After this policy, the U.S. saw a mass of Cuban immigrants entering the country through Texas. By landing in Mexico and approaching on foot, they were able to avoid Coast Guard Patrols that would have sent them back to Cuba. As a result, the Laredo, Texas field office is the largest entry point for Cuban immigrants to the U.S – though not the closest crossing point for them.

As of this year, 18,240 Cubans have sought entry into the U.S. through Laredo between October 2014 and June 2015. In the entirety of 2014, a total of 15,600 Cuban immigrants sought entry into the U.S. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, if the trend continues, there will be a 60 percent increase in Cuban immigration with as many as 24,700 coming through Laredo alone.

Marc Rosenblum, deputy director of the U.S. Immigration Policy program at the Migration Policy Institute, believes this is related to improved relations between the U.S. and Cuba as the Obama administration has sought to remove restrictions and improve the tense relationship between the two countries.

It is interesting to think that simply improving political relations between two countries could have such a profound impact on immigration.