Wilfredo Cancio Isla (Cafe Fuerte)
HAVANA TIMES — More than 14,000 Cubans crossed the Mexican border into the United States in the 2014 fiscal year, setting a historical record for the illegal inflow of Cuban citizens through US immigration control points.
Statistics made available to CafeFuerte by the Customs and Border Protection Department indicate that, as of July 21 this year, a total of 20,522 people of Cuban nationality had arrived in the United States through border points, 13,911 of them through the Mexican border.
The data points to a notable rise in the number of Cuban immigrants, with figures from the two last months of the current fiscal year (which ends on September 30) still to come.
In 2013, the figures rose by 40%, with over 16,000 people invoking the Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA) to request asylum at different border points, 13,664 at the Mexican border.
This has been a particularly tense and busy time for US immigration dealing with thousands of Central American children without any means of identification. Meanwhile Cubans continue to request asylum before the authorities, invoking the special migratory prerogatives that apply to them.
Some 89,000 Cubans have entered the United States through the Mexican border alone since 2005.
The number of Cubans requesting asylum hasn’t only skyrocketed at the Mexican border. Other border control points in the northern United States, such as the Buffalo-Niagara Falls crossing and Champlain-Rouses Point, in New York, are beginning to see greater and greater numbers of Cubans produce a piece of identification and invoke the Cuban Adjustment Act.
The figures analyzed encompass 121 border control points, immigration posts and airports, but do not include the 56,410 Cubans whose entry into the country is registered at the Miami International Airport. These statistics include all travelers that receive an I-94 form (those who arrive with an immigration permit and those who enter the country as visitors for family or work-related reasons, holding a B1 or B2 visas), but they do not specify the number of Cubans who request asylum after setting foot on US soil.
The Cuban-Spanish Avalanche
The number of Cubans with Spanish nationality who request asylum under the Cuban Adjustment Act upon arrival at the Miami airport has increased considerably over the past three years. Travelers with Spanish passports or passports from EU countries do not require a visa to enter the United States, only a document or waiver secured through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
More than 180 thousand Cubans have become naturalized Spanish citizens under the Historical Memory Law, also known as the Grandchildren’s Law, which came into effect in December of 2008. Many of the so-called cubañoles (Cuban-Spaniards) have used their newly-acquired citizenship as springboard to travel without visa requirements and settle in the United States.
Though Cubans holding Spanish passports are being granted entrance as an asylum seeker at the Miami airport almost automatically, the process depends on the immigration official.
The porosity of border check points for illegal Cuban immigration constitutes an incentive for thousands of people who are now able to travel to third countries, thanks to the migratory reforms that the Raul Castro government made effective in January of 2013.
Border crossings and requests for asylum at US airports by Cubans has been spiraling out of control ever since.
A high number of refugees arriving in the United States are Cubans who travel through Central American countries. They arrive in these countries by sea and later cross the Mexican border. The Cayman Islands have recently become a transit point for vessels carrying Cuban migrants and the stage of violent incidents, in which those detained in the high seas refuse to be repatriated. Others undertake dangerous journeys from South America, chiefly Ecuador.
Cubans have continued to attempt crossing the Strait of Florida on rafts or speedboats, but more rigorous monitoring by the Coast Guard Service has reduced the number of people attempting to reach US coasts this way significantly. So far this year, 1,561 Cubans have been intercepted out at sea and repatriated – the largest number registered since 2008.
The United States issues some 20 thousand traveler visas to Cubans every year and the average number of people visiting the country for family-related, cultural and other matters was over 26 thousand in 2013. A high number of these visas are valid for a five year period.
No measure, however, appears sufficient to put an end to the Cuban exodus.
CUBAN IMMIGRATION DATA BY BORDER CONTROL POINTS (2005-2014)
2005- 11,524 (7,267 through the Mexican border)
2006- 13,405 (8,639)
2007- 13,840 (9,566)
2008- 11,146 (10,030)
2009- 7,803 (5,893)
2010- 6,286 (5,570)
2011- 7,051 (5,973)
2012- 9,191 (8,273)
2013- 16,184 (13,664)
2014- 20,522 (13,911)*
*As of July 21, 2014.