Cuba Illegal Exit
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More Cubans Migrate to U.S.

More Cubans Migrate to U.S.
Migrants fear narrowing or closure of window of opportunity that
provides them special treatment
By MIRIAM JORDAN
Updated Sept. 20, 2015 9:12 p.m. ET

Cuban migrants are flocking to the U.S., federal data show, a trend
experts attribute to fears that changing relations between the two
countries could end America’s policy that permits residents of the
island nation who reach the U.S. to remain here permanently.

Mainly over land, 31,314 Cubans entered the U.S. in the first nine
months of the fiscal year that ends next week, up from about 26,000
migrants who entered in fiscal 2014, according to the Department of
Homeland Security. Fewer than 7,500 Cubans came in 2010.

“There is sense of urgency to beat any change in U.S. immigration policy
toward Cuba,” said Paolo Spadoni, a Cuba expert at Georgia Regents
University.

In particular, the migrants see the window of opportunity provided under
the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act, which accords Cuban migrants special
treatment, narrowing or closing soon, as the thaw between the former
foes leads Washington to revise policies in place for decades, he said.

The law allows Cubans who touch U.S. soil to stay and apply for a green
card after one year. They also are eligible for benefits granted to
refugees fleeing persecution, such as some cash assistance and medical
coverage.

ENLARGE
Cuba is likely to want to put the Adjustment Act on the table for
discussion, said Román de la Campa, a Cuba scholar at the University of
Pennsylvania.

“It has always seen that policy as a lure for Cubans to migrate even
though it has also often counted on it to alleviate unrest among those
who are obviously discontent or even feel desperate,” he said.

The U.S. government also could reconsider the policy because most Cuban
arrivals are motivated by economic difficulty, rather than political
reasons, to seek a new life in the U.S., scholars say.

In a statement, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection said, “The
Administration’s recent announcements regarding Cuba does not mean a
change in our current immigration policy toward Cuba, reflected in the
so-called ‘wet foot/dry foot’ policy or the Cuban Refugee Adjustment Act.”

Last month, Secretary of State John Kerry told a news conference, in
response to a question, that the administration has “no plans whatsoever
to alter the current migration policy.” He added that, going forward,
Washington is willing to discuss with Havana ”those things that we think
work best to advance the relationship and the well-being of both our
citizens.”

The U.S. and Cuba recently restored diplomatic ties and reopened
embassies. On Friday, the White House announced changes that lay the
groundwork to broaden business ties with the island.

Like last year, the vast majority of Cubans in 2015 have entered the
U.S. through Texas. In the first nine months of this fiscal year, about
18,520 Cubans showed up at ports of entry that fall under the Laredo
field office of the agency. After being paroled into the country by CBP
officials, migrants can travel freely in the U.S.

Coming over land is considered less perilous than making a sea crossing,
which also is more likely to result in being intercepted and turned back
by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Still, many migrants take a long, circuitous route, first flying to
Ecuador, because it doesn’t require a visa for Cubans, and then
traveling to Mexico.

The U.S. also has loosened restrictions on visas for Cubans who arrive
by air as tourists, some of whom are believed to remain in the U.S.

The land crossings are the latest chapter in Cuban flight to the U.S.,
and experts expect arrivals to keep climbing. “A key feature is that
they tend to be young people looking for opportunity like all the other
economic migrants” coming to the U.S., said Georgia Regents University’s
Mr. Spadoni.

A spokesman for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of
Galveston-Houston says the agency has served more than 1,000 Cuban
“unbudgeted walk-ins” so far this fiscal year. That volume can strain
resources of such nonprofits that serve refugees because they are not
among the 70,000 refugees, mainly from Africa, Asia and the Middle East,
whose resettlement the U.S. government committed to fund this year.

Facilitating the Cuban exodus in recent years are Havana’s easing of
travel restrictions for Cubans in 2013 and a general lack of hope among
Cubans about their country’s economic prospects.

Write to Miriam Jordan at miriam.jordan@wsj.com

Source: More Cubans Migrate to U.S. – WSJ –
http://www.wsj.com/articles/more-cubans-migrate-to-u-s-1442789321

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