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Cuba’s economic woes could fuel America’s next immigration crisis

Honduras and Cuban immigrants will cross the Rio Grande River on June 26, 2019, at the US-Mexico border. Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images Not all immigrants wishing to claim asylum in the United States have escaped from the devastation of Central American violence. Contrary to popular belief, the “Northern Triangle” of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. As of late February, 16% of the 71,021 asylum seekers waiting in Mexico for their applications to be processed in the United States were Cubans, according to federal immigration data. As a result, Cubans are the third largest immigrant group, just before Salvador, after Guatemalans and Hondurans. Why Cubans Flee Most Cubans at the gateway to the United States are economic refugees. However, Cubans no longer have a priority over other immigrants, so asylum is effectively theirs until former President Barack Obama ceases to automatically recognize Cubans arriving in the United States. Claims to be the only hope of entry. Cubans who can afford it either fly to South America or hire a smuggler to take them to Mexico on a “high-speed craft” and trek north to the US border. Those who cannot afford to pay smugglers try to cross the Straits of Florida on a raft or small boat called “Barcelona”, a dangerous 90-mile sea route. So far this year, the US Coast Guard has picked up 180 Cuban “Barcelo” at sea in an attempt to reach the United States. The number is modest, but more than three times the rescue by the Cuban Coast Guard last year. Cubans intercepted at sea will be returned to Cuba under the terms of the 1995 Immigration Agreement. The current rise is reminiscent of the gradual increase in rafters rescued at sea in the spring of 1994. That number increased exponentially that summer, culminating in the “Barcelo” immigration crisis. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, which was a major international partner of Communist Cuba at the time, the 1994 escape brought 35,000 Cubans to the United States in two months. It was the third Cuban migrant crisis in the United States. In 1965, about 5,000 Cubans departed from the port of Camarioca on a small boat and landed in South Florida. In 1980, Mariel’s boat crisis brought 125,000 Cuban immigrants to the United States in a so-called “free fleet.” These waves of immigrants arose when the Cuban economy was at stake and living standards were declining. All three happened when the Cubans had few means for legal migration. As legal routes were seized and the economy deteriorated, pressure to leave over time increased, and finally a large outflow of desperate people exploded. After 40 years of studying the relationship between the United States and Cuba, I believe that the conditions that led to these immigration crises have been reestablished. Free-fall economy The Cuban economy shrank 11% in 2020, hit by the double impact of new US sanctions between the Trump administration and the COVID-19 pandemic. Former President Donald Trump has blocked two major sources of foreign exchange income in Cuba: People Cuba’s National Statistical Office data analysis shows that educational trips to people from the United States are worth about $ 500 million annually. , Cash remittances amount to $ 3.5 billion annually. The epidemic has hit Cuba’s tourism industry with a 75% decline. This is a loss of about $ 2.5 billion. Cubans are waiting to buy food in Havana on March 22, 2021. Yamil Lage / AFP via Getty Images These external shocks have hit the economy already weakened by the decline in cheap oil due to the decline in production in crisis Venezuela, and Cuba spends more. Of that rare forex currency on fuel that was forced to do. Cuba imports most of its food, so island nations are experiencing a food crisis. The result is the worst recession since the 1990s. Increasing Cuba Demand for Migration The 1994 Cuban immigration crisis ended when former President Bill Clinton signed an agreement with Cuba to provide for safe and legal migration. The United States has promised to provide Cuba with at least 20,000 immigrant visas each year to avoid future crises by creating a release valve. President Trump has replaced President Obama’s policy of normalizing relations between the United States and Cuba with one of the “maximum pressures” aimed at the collapse of the Cuban regime. He reduced the US Embassy in Havana in 2017. And he suspended the Cuban family reunification parole program. It provided Cuba with more than 20,000 immigrant visas each year with relatives in the United States. These measures dramatically reduced the number of immigrant visas granted and closed the safety valve Clinton negotiated in 1994. Over 3,000 Cuban immigrants have been accepted into the United States. Today, about 100,000 Cubans who have applied for the reintegration program are waiting for the program to resume. Policy Issues Although the brewing of the immigration crisis in Cuba has been largely overlooked, the Biden administration manages the influx of asylum seekers in Central America and takes care of unaccompanied minors at the U.S.-Mexico border. Focuses on that. White House spokesman Jen Psaki recently said Cuban policy is currently under consideration, but it is “not a top priority.” US officials can avoid an immigration crisis in Cuba by making changes to Biden’s promised US-Cuba relationship in the 2020 presidential election. Relocating the staff of the US Embassy in Havana will allow Clinton to regain compliance with the 1994 Immigration Agreement and grant at least 20,000 immigrant visas annually. It will give Cubans a safe and legitimate way to come to the United States and discourage them from endangering their lives in the open ocean or with traffickers. Lifting Trump’s sanctions will reduce the need for migration by reducing the financial difficulties of Cuba by allowing Cuban Americans to send money directly to their families there. And reversing Trump’s restrictions on travel to the island will help rejuvenate private Cuban restaurants and beds and breakfasts that rely on US visitors. All these measures bring money directly into the hands of the Cuban people and give them hope for a better future in Cuba. This article has been republished by The Conversation, a non-profit news site aimed at sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by William M. Leo Grande, American University Graduate School of Public Policy. Read more: The United States is at risk of armed anti-police riots Veterans are stuck far away from home after years of military service and pressure Biden to bring them back William M. Leo Grande is a senior researcher at the Washington office in Latin America, a human rights advocacy group.

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