On December 17, 2014, the President announced that the U.S. government would begin the process to resume normal diplomatic relations with the communist regime in Cuba. This announcement signified a change to the five-decade long policy of isolating the Cuban government. The announcement also sparked a new fear of the end of the U.S. welcoming Cuban immigrants with open arms and with lawful immigration status–as long as they could reach American soil.
While the President did not announce any official plans to end the Cuban Adjustment Act–the law that allows Cuban nationals to obtain entry and lawful permanent residence in the U.S.–the rumors of its demise have clearly reached Cuba.
The Havana Times recently reported that the number of Cubans attempting to flee Cuba and enter the U.S. after the President’s announcement has increased dramatically. The numbers have also greatly increased from this time last year:
Figures for December are highly suggestive: 481 Cubans have taken to the sea in 37 different voyages, an increase of 117 % with respect to the same period in 2013. In only five days this January (2015), 96 Cubans have been intercepted in the Strait of Florida by US authorities.
These numbers show that Cubans clearly fear that President Obama seeks to end their special status and treatment in the U.S. To risk the perilous journey across the Florida Straits at this time of years exemplifies their desperation. A 50-year old Cuban drowned last weekend when his small raft capsized during an attempt to flee Cuba.
These numbers show that any changes (or rumors of changes) to U.S. immigration policy, whether through congressional action or unilateral executive fiat, will create a huge incentive for more immigrants from around the world to risk their lives to come to the U.S.