Miami Seeing Influx of Cuban Immigrants Part I

February 2, 2016 9:15 am
by David Jakeman

Most Miami immigration lawyers are used to working with a fair number of Cuban immigrants. Those familiar with Cuba’s proximity to the state of Florida understand how significant the Cuban population has been in Florida. The Cuban population, as well as Florida’s position as a swing state, have made the Cuban-American voting block a powerful constituency.

It took a while, but President Obama has worked hard to normalize relations with the Cuban government. Such developments have had some unintended consequences, with more and more Cubans making their way to the United States and settling in places like Miami.

Fears of U.S. Immigration Policy Change

For many decades, Cubans who made it to the United States have had an almost sure shot at political asylum and an easier path to permanent legal residency than most other immigrants. But many Cubans fear that the green card will be more difficult to obtain as the United States and Cuba continue to improve relations. Such fears have sparked a surge in Cuban immigrants coming to the United States. In the 2015 fiscal year, more than 43,000 Cubans came to the United States.

This number is the highest it has been in the past two decades and is up nearly 20,000 over the 24,000 there were the previous fiscal year. Despite the Obama administration’s efforts to assure Cubans that they don’t plan on making it any more difficult for Cubans to come to the United States, many have decided to not take the chance that things might change. Many likely fear that if the United States has improved relations with Cuba, it will in turn be more willing to deport Cubans back to Cuba.

Change in Arrival

The traditional route for most Cuban arrivals has been by boat, arriving on the Florida coast. Such arrivals still happen, but a larger number of Cubans are making their way to the United States by land. This has been such a big shift that there were several thousand Cuban migrants stranded in Central America, and the problem was not solved until Costa Rica and Guatemala agreed to allow 8,000 Cubans to travel north to the United States.

For Cubans, a good starting spot for a land trip to the United States until recently was the country of Ecuador. Ecuador had not required Cuban visitors to obtain a visa, which allowed Cubans to start their journey northward from the country. As a result, Ecuador recently ended such a possibility, now requiring Cubans to obtain a visa. For Cuban immigrants who made it via the land route before the recent border change, they consider themselves lucky.

Ecuador’s change in policy sparked outrage and frustration among many Cubans. Some organized a protest outside of Ecuador’s embassy in Havana. At the moment, there appear to be a number of Cuban immigrants stuck in Ecuador, not knowing what step to take next. For those who have made it to the United States, Miami and Florida and natural places to go, given the presence of family and friends. Given the current political climate and unease, Miami immigration lawyers will likely see an uptick in immigrants coming from Cuba, although more might start coming by boats again now that Ecuador has been closed off.

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