Sep 1, 2022 - News

Cubans flee in largest numbers since Mariel boatlift

A man waves a Cuban flag against the sky.
People gathered in Miami on July 11 to commemorate mass street protests in Cuba the year before, which led to crackdowns on dissenters. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui Trinkl/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Cubans are fleeing their homeland in the greatest numbers since the Mariel boatlift in 1980, when 125,000 people arrived on U.S. shores within a six-month period, according to an Associated Press analysis.

By the numbers: From January to July, U.S. border authorities report nearly 155,000 incidents stopping Cuban migrants from entering via Mexico — six times as many as the first half of 2021.

  • The Coast Guard has intercepted more than 4,600 Cubans from October 2021 to August, which is more than five times as many as the whole fiscal year prior.
  • Border Patrol agents in the Florida Keys intercepted 150 people from Cuba in just the past week, the Miami Herald reports.

The big picture: The exodus comes as the island nation faces its most severe economic crisis in decades, BBC reports. Cubans face food and fuel shortages and power blackouts, while the country cracks down on dissenters.

  • Relaxed travel rules in Nicaragua have recently made it easier for Cubans to fly there and travel by land to the U.S. border.

Between the lines: The Wall Street Journal reported last week that most Cubans turn themselves in to Border Patrol agents, then file for asylum.

  • Because of a backlog of 1.8 million immigration cases, Cubans arriving now are not even getting court dates scheduled until 2024.

Miami-Dade County officials told the Journal that Cubans can enroll in Medicaid, apply for temporary Social Security cards, and receive cash stipends of $180 per person and food stamps worth $250.

  • After applying for asylum, they can also get driver's licenses and work permits.

What we're watching: U.S. Customs and Border Protection is seeing more Cuban minors showing up at the U.S.-Mexico border without their parents, the Herald reports.

  • "It seems to be a new migratory pattern, which until now has been dominated by young adults without their children," Jorge Duany, director at Florida International University's Cuban Research Institute, told the Herald.
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