Increase in Cuban Migration Has No Historical Precedent

Interesting and significant shift:

When it comes to immigration across the U.S.-Mexico border, media coverage tends to focus on the increasing numbers of migrants attempting to cross it. What’s missing from the conversation, however, is the changing demographics of these migrants.  

Historically, the majority of people who attempted to cross the southwestern border between border crossing stations — officially called ports of entry, or “POEs” — were Mexican nationals. This began to change in recent years, when U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) began encountering  large numbers of Central American migrants also attempting the crossing. Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala are known as the Northern Triangle, and many migrants from these countries frequently attempted the crossings in family units. 

Beginning in 2020, however, CBP began to encounter increasing numbers of immigrants from outside Mexico and the Northern Triangle. According to CBP data, the number of migrants from countries other than these four has increased 11,000% since 2007, with the sharpest increase occurring in the past two years. Border Patrol apprehensions involving migrants from countries beyond Mexico and Central America’s Northern Triangle were 9% in fiscal year 2019, but climbed to 22% in 2021 and 40% in 2022. In fact, encounters by CBP with migrants from these “other” countries are on track to outpace encounters with migrants from Mexico and the Northern Triangle. 

Migrants from these “other” countries come from a handful of nations, including Cuba, Colombia, Nicaragua and Venezuela. Each of these countries has seen dramatic increases in encounters at the southwest border over the past two years. The rapid increase in Cuban migrants is particularly notable. 

Cubans who remain on the island face widespread poverty, inflation, power blackouts, basic supply shortages, and intense government repression following massive anti-government protests in 2021. These conditions are driving a historic increase in Cuban migration, surpassing the 1980 Mariel boatlift. CBP has reported nearly 176,000 encounters with Cuban migrants at the southwest land border since October. 

Hundreds of unaccompanied Cuban children have arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border in the past year, as more parents appear to be sending their children to safety amid deteriorating conditions in Cuba.  

Since October 2021, CBP reported 662 encounters with unaccompanied Cuban children at the southern border, compared to 32 encounters in the FY 2021 and 57 encounters in 2020, marking an increase of 1,969%. 

In the midst of these increased numbers, USCIS has restarted the Cuban Family Reunification Parole program “to provide a safe, orderly pathway to the United States for certain Cuban beneficiaries of approved family-based immigrant petitions.” 


About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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