Thursday, October 9, 2008

U.S. eliminates waiting period for Cuban emigrants

Last week I wrote about Coast Guard data that show a 25 percent decline in interceptions of Cuban migrants at sea between fiscal years 2007 and 2008. A reader points out that the number of Cubans crossing the Mexico-U.S. border also declined during the same period, from about 11,000 to 5,784 in the first eleven months of fiscal 2008 (see coverage on the Herald’s blog here).

The same reader argues that a trend toward lower illegal migration seems to be afoot, and points out a possible cause: the initiation of the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program. The program is explained here and a Q&A (pdf) is here.

This program, special for Cubans as the name implies, makes family reunification immigration easier, where someone in the United States petitions for a relative overseas to come here. The process involves long waiting lists depending, among other things, on how close the relationship is, and waiting times can take up to ten years. This new program for Cubans cuts the waiting time to a matter of months.

The program was instituted last February. All 12,000 petitioners who had filed papers for relatives in Cuba to join them in the United States received information on the program. By April, the first cases were processed, and the individuals started traveling to the United States. There’s no doubt that this program has made family immigration a much easier and faster avenue for legal migration from Cuba to the United States. If a trend toward lower illegal migration takes hold, the program has to be counted as a factor.

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