Cuban Border Crossers and Changes in U.S.-Cuban Relations

Camera guyRecently, it seems like Syrian refugees are the only story.  Not true. Significant changes in U.S. Cuban diplomatic relations will continue to have an impact on our work and the lives of our Cuban clients.  There seem to be more questions than answers. What’s next and when?

What are the effects on new Cuban arrivals to the U.S. and the Cuban immigrant communities that welcome them? Cubans in Cuba when I visited in 2006 told me that everyone who stayed behind has family in the U.S. They believed those connections would drive economic growth for everyone.  A rising tide lifts all boats.

Second or third generation Cuban-Americans will have different assets to offer their families back on the island than payrolees (border crossers) still within their first five years in the U.S. Even before diplomatic relations were normalized, limits on remittances to Cuba were relaxed allowing Cubans in the U.S. to send larger sums of money back to Cuba for expanded purposes.  Have these changes resulted in increased financial support for Cubans in Cuba from relatives in the U.S.?Cuban Snip one

The number of unauthorized Cubans arriving in the United States nearly doubled in fiscal 2015, rising to 43,159 from 24,278 the previous year, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data obtained through a public records request. This represents a 78% increase over the previous year. Click here to read more from a Washington Post article and a Pew Research Center report, both from December 2015.

tico times

Photo Credit: Zach Dyer/The Tico Times

The surge in Cuban border crossers has also had an impact on the Latin American countries they often travel through en route to the U.S. and has made the Cuban journey more difficult and expensive. Ecuador, Costa Rica and Nicaragua have tightened travel restrictions in response to increase Cubans transitting across their borders. Border crossers often amass large debts incurred to pay for transportation, fees and bribes en route. How are their motivations, journey and resettlement experience different than in the past as a result of additional obstacles?

“El red Cubano”, the Cuban network, is an informal web of interwoven connections that stretch between Cubans here, in Cuba and along their journey. Information – and sometimes mis-information – spreads quickly through those informal channels. That powerful communication vehicle is almost certainly one factor contributing to increased arrivals.

Higher really want to hear stories about how changes in U.S.-Cuban relations are affecting Cubans on both sides of the 60 mile Straits of Florida that separate Cuba from the U.S.  Please share this post and get in touch at to offer your insight.


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