Dramatic Increase of Cubans Arriving at US/Mexico Border

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Source: vitaliy-m, “Cuba Poverty Facade,” pixabay.com, July 31, 2019

Over 1% of Cuba’s population (at least 114,916 Cubans) left Cuba and arrived at the United States’ border with Mexico between Oct. 2021 and Apr. 2022. [1]

Most Cuban migrants are flying to Latin America (mainly Nicaragua, which does not require visas for Cubans) and arriving at the US border by foot, a dangerous journey in particular for Cubans, who are often seen as easy targets for financial extortion by smugglers and others. [2] [3]

The US Coast Guard has also seen an increase in migrants, intercepting 861 migrants at sea and returning them to Cuba between Oct. 2021 and Mar. 2, 2022. In 2021, a total of 1,255 Cubans were intercepted at sea and returned to Cuba. [4] [5]

Called “a silent Mariel,” the exodus is the largest number of Cubans to migrate to the US since the Apr. to Oct. 1980 Mariel boatlift when 125,000 Cubans arrived in Florida. [1]

Jorge Duany, Director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University, attributes the migration increase to “a perfect storm” of conditions: “the economic recession on the island, the intensification of the economic sanctions imposed by the Trump administration and maintained until now by the Biden administration, the coronavirus pandemic and the social uprising on July 11” last year.” [1]

Most Cuban migrants arrive at the American border and request asylum rather than entering the country illegally. Thanks to the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act, Cubans who are in the United States for a year and a day are allowed to apply for permanent residency, unlike anyone from any other country. [4] [5]

Discussion Questions

1. Should the United States maintain the embargo against Cuba? Why or why not? How might the embargo impact the number of Cuban migrants? Explain your answer(s).

2. Should the United States change immigration policies for Cubans who seek asylum? Explain your answer(s).

3. Should the United States extend immigration polices for Cubans to people of other nationalities? Specifically the policy that Cubans in the country for a year and a day may apply for permanent residency. Explain your answer(s).


1. Nora Gámez Torres, “The Biggest Wave of Cuban Migrants Arriving in U.S. since 1980 Is Driving Policy Changes,” miamiherald.com, May 25, 2022

2. Ed Augustin, “Stars Align for Cuban Migrants As Record Numbers Seek Better Life in US,” theguardian.com, June 12, 2022

3. Patrick Oppman, “Cubans Are Arriving to the US in Record Numbers. Smugglers Are Profiting from Their Exodus,” cnn.com, May 12, 2022

4. Alicia A. Caldwell and Arian Campo-Flores, “Despite Dangers, More Migrants Attempt Sea Crossing to U.S.,” wsj.com, May 28, 2022

5. Mariakarla Nodarse Venancio and Isabella Oliver, “Cuban Migration is Changing, the U.S. Must Take Note,” wola.org, Mar. 25, 2022