Cuban immigrants in the United States broke a new record. More than 175,000 escaped communism have been apprehended in the US between October 2021 and July 2022. According to Customs and Border Protection (CBP), that number is six times the registered in the previous 12 months.
Since the communist revolution of 1959, more than two million Cubans have fled the island. An exodus like the current one had not been seen since the first years of the revolution. What has changed is that now Cubans must face even more inhumane conditions than crossing the sea on a raft; Thanks to former President Barack Obama.
Shortly before leaving the White House, the Democrat abolished the law known as “wet feet, dry feet” in January 2017. Because of him, Cubans arriving on the US mainland can no longer benefit from the immigration rule that allowed them to obtain residency. Now, in addition to the journey to leave Cuba, they must cross the border with Mexico.
Rape, robbery and kidnapping
Crossing across the border with Mexico involves many dangers. Those who take this route are at the mercy of common criminals and organized crime, along with coyotes and human traffickers. The Wall Street Journal collected testimonies from Cubans who managed to reach their goal.
One of those interviewed was Reyniel Sánchez, a 31-year-old electricity inspector. To emigrate, he sold a motorcycle for $2,000 and asked his father, who runs a bus company in Miami, for money.
He recounted that he was repeatedly beaten and robbed in Mexico. He also denounced that they were armed assailants and that he thinks they were members of a drug cartel. Near the US border, a gang member put a gun to his head. In addition, he recounted that two women traveling in his group were raped by armed men. Ultimately, they were captured and were not released until relatives in the United States sent money to their captors, he confessed.
“I have a lot of nightmares,” he added.
A figure that exceeds those expelled from Mariel
Florida Lieutenant Governor Jeannette Núñez compared the recent record number of Cuban immigrants in the US to the Mariel fleet. Said fleet bears the name of the port through which the regime allowed the departure of 125,000 Cubans. It happened between April and October 1980 and included tens of thousands of prisoners expelled by the Castros.
“We talked about how it’s more people than left on the Mariel boats and then (Gov. Ron DeSantis) asked what the state is doing, so it was a general discussion about illegal immigration not directed at Cuban immigrants fleeing [from a] dictatorial regime. I think I know her better, I am the daughter of Cuban immigrants,” Núñez clarified.
The lieutenant governor made this clarification after Governor DeSantis suggested sending illegal immigrants to Delaware, the home state of President Joe Biden. Núñez, a descendant of Cubans, highlighted the difference between a person who chooses to migrate illegally and exiles from communism who flee for their lives.
Why are so many emigrating now?
At least one of the reasons for the increase in Cuban immigrants can be attributed to the access they now have through Nicaragua. Since November 2021, the Central American country has eliminated the visa for Cubans. From there, they migrate through Central America and then through Mexico to the US.
A State Department spokesman told The Wall Street Journal that the United States is very concerned about this increase in Cuban immigrants. “The predators are taking advantage of their desperation, charging Cubans and their families exorbitant fees to leave the island,” the spokesman said.
Although many Cubans are given easier access to asylum once they cross, at least 1.8 million cases are currently waiting in immigration court. According to government statistics, Cubans typically get court dates for 2024.
It is not a minor fact that the flow of exiles increased in July 2021, the month in which there was a historic civil uprising on the island. Hand in hand with the devastating economic situation that is being experienced, exacerbated by the tourist paralysis that the pandemic brought, the repression against the opposition increased. According to the Cubalex organization, more than 600 Cubans were accused of various crimes for participating in the massive protests of July 11 last year. As of March of this year, 129 of them had been sentenced to between six and 30 years in prison.
Cubans made headlines around the world for rising up against the regime for the first time since the Maleconazo in 1994. Even the protest song Patria y vida won a Grammy, which helped to make the drama on the island even more visible. A year later, reality shows that the repression exacerbated migration to the United States with a new record number.