A couple walks by Cuban-themed murals along the "Calle Ocho" street in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami in 2014. Reuters/Brian Blanco

New arrivals have seen a dramatic rise since the two countries resumed diplomatic relations.

In December 2014, President Obama announced that the U.S. would be reviving diplomatic relations with its long-estranged neighbor Cuba, establishing a “new chapter” in ties severed back in 1961.

Since that news, Cubans have rushed to America in droves—one of the biggest waves of immigration in recent years. In fiscal 2015, more than 43,000 Cubans arrived in the U.S. via various ports of entry, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data obtained by the Pew Research Center. That’s a dizzying 78 percent increase over the 2014 fiscal year, when the total number of Cuban immigrants entering the U.S. was just above 24,000.

The number of Cubans coming to America has been rising steadily over the last 5 years, accelerated by the Castro government’s decision to ease travel restrictions in 2013. The jump in immigration from 2014 to 2015 was much more dramatic than any single-year rise since 2005. And just from January to March this year—the months right after Obama’s announcement—more than twice the number of Cubans arrived than over the same period in 2014.

A big reason for this incredible surge is a U.S. law that offers Cubans preferential treatment as immigrants. The Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 and its 1995 update, known as the “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy, allow Cuban citizens who manage to reach American borders the opportunity to enter and stay, putting them on the path to legal permanent residence. The law was originally designed to provide easy shelter to political refugees fleeing Fidel Castro’s regime in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.

But now lawmakers are pushing to end it on the grounds that Cuban immigrants no longer warrant special treatment under U.S. law since the two countries are on better terms. Cubans, meanwhile, are trying to take advantage of the law while it lasts. Though the U.S. Coast Guard has intercepted 3,500 Cubans traveling to America by sea so far in 2015, the number of Cubans who entered the U.S. through Miami was twice that of the previous year, Pew reports.

To avoid being sent back home, many Cubans have been taking a detour through countries in Latin America, such as Ecuador, arriving at the U.S.-Mexican border. In 2015, two-thirds of all Cubans immigrating to the U.S. came through Texas’s Laredo Customs and Border Patrol entryway. More than 28,000 Cubans came through that checkpoint this year, up 82 percent from 2014.

Despite this influx, however, Pew points out that the 2 million-strong Cuban population in the U.S. is mostly growing because of a type of new arrival other than immigration: new births.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Equity

    The Hidden Horror of Hudson Yards Is How It Was Financed

    Manhattan’s new luxury mega-project was partially bankrolled by an investor visa program called EB-5, which was meant to help poverty-stricken areas.

  2. a photo of a man surveying a home garage.
    Transportation

    How Single-Family Garages Can Ease California's Housing Crisis

    Given the affordable housing crisis, California cities should encourage single-family homeowners to convert garages into apartments and accessory dwelling units.

  3. A new map of neighborhood change in U.S. metros shows where displacement is the main problem, and where economic decline persists.
    Equity

    From Gentrification to Decline: How Neighborhoods Really Change

    A new report and accompanying map finds extreme gentrification in a few cities, but the dominant trend—particularly in the suburbs—is the concentration of low-income population.

  4. Life

    Who’s Really Buying Property in San Francisco?

    A lot of software developers, according to an unprecedented new analysis.

  5. A street scene in Berlin.
    Navigator

    Navigator: How Do You Read a City?