Published On: Mon, Apr 4th, 2016

Cuban Immigration Spikes as US Relations Normalize

To say the least, 2016 has been a landmark year in United States-Cuba relations. Travel restrictions have been loosened, diplomatic relations have begun to warm. President Obama’s recent visit to the island nation was the first by a sitting American president since Calvin Coolidge. All signs point towards both counties working together to undo decades of Cold War animosity.

Beyond the wide reaching diplomatic implications, improved US-Cuba relations will have a tremendous effect on the state of Cuban immigration. Since 1966, when President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Cuban Adjustment Act, native Cubans have enjoyed the ability to apply for a green card (permanent residency-status) after just one year in the US. The preferential treatment given to Cubans fleeing their country over was largely due to political repression in Cuba, with Cubans essentially granted “refugee” status upon entry into the United Sated.

Public domain photo/US Government

Public domain photo/US Government

As relations improve, members in both the Senate and House of Representatives have called to all but repeal the Cuban Adjustment Act. Repealing the Act would limit immediate eligibility only to Cuban immigrants fleeing persecution. Government officials state that the law is unfair to immigrants from other countries who currently have to wait longer than Cubans in order to seek residency.

Cuban citizens are aware that it could soon take much longer to acquire a US Green Card. Cuban immigration has spiked as a result. From October 2015 to February 2016, over 18,500 Cubans went through the US Customs and Border Protection office in Laredo, Texas.

If current immigration levels from Cuba continue, 2016 will easily surpass the previous single year record. Over 43,000 Cuban immigrants were processed during the 2015 fiscal year. The 2016 Fiscal Year has already seen over 25,000 Cuban immigrants in just five months.

The impact of the recent wave of Cuban immigrants is evident well beyond traditional Cuban-American communities such as Miami. Lured by better job prospects and a lower cost-of-living, Louisville, Kentucky is one of several metropolitan areas experiencing growth in Cuban demographics.

Employers have taken notice, with identification validation services initiating coverage of Cuban

driver’s licenses online. Because of the preferential status currently given to Cuban immigrants, counterfeit Cuban identification documents are often used to attain worry-free residency in the United States.

Cubans should prepare for a future where getting into the US means having to go through the same entry protocol that any other immigrant needs to go through. That means going through all the proper screenings and providing the necessary identification documents as well.

The recent direction of US-Cuban relations is bittersweet for many Cubans. An increased US presence would be the key in revitalizing the economy and bettering the quality of life on the island. However, that warmer relationship could soon mean the end of the fast-tracked eligibility for U.S. residency that Cuban immigrants enjoy.

 Guest Author: Andrew Armstrong

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