Monday, November 5, 2007

The non-crisis in Cuban migration

The University of Miami’s Cuba Transition Project issued a paper on Cuba migration trends that contains interesting data and concludes that we are facing a “deluge” and a “new migration crisis” that is “seemingly unnoticed by the media and policymakers alike.”

There is no doubt that large numbers of Cubans would like to come to the United States. The clearest indicator was when the when the U.S. consulate in Havana held a visa lottery shortly after the U.S.-Cuba migration accords were reached during the Clinton Administration, and half a million applications came in. That’s about five percent of the Cuban population, or more if you consider that each winning application would entitle the applicant to emigrate with immediate family.

Substantial numbers of Cubans have been coming ever since, about 20,000 per year with normal immigrant visas, as provided in those accords. The point of those accords was to open the door to legal migration and discourage illegal migration.

However, many still come without visas. In 2006, according to government data cited in media reports, 11,487 crossed the Mexican border, 2,861 were intercepted at sea, and 4,825 reached U.S. territory by boat.

It could be, as the paper claims, that Cuba’s government is using “mass migration” to relieve pressure at home and as an “aggressive foreign policy tactic” to create a bargaining chip for future negotiations with Washington. Or it could be that Cubans themselves are responding to the incentives in U.S. policy. Some apply for visas, some leave on boats, while others work with their relatives to arrange for smugglers to bring them, either directly or via Mexico.

The reason this is not being treated as a crisis – by the Administration, by Cuban American leaders, by Florida officials – is probably because the officials who are responsible for U.S. policy, or who are affected by Cuban immigration, see current levels of immigration as a normal, acceptable flow. We’ll know that has changed if we see suggestions that Cubans who reach U.S. shores be returned to Cuba, or that those who present themselves at the Mexican border not be admitted. I’m not holding my breath.

1 comment:

Mambi_Watch said...

But, you gotta love those guys at UM's Cuba Transition Project. They try so hard.