Cause and Effect: Illegal Cuban Migration is Down

The Miami Herald reported this morning that the number of Cubans attempting to illegally enter the U.S. has dropped dramatically in the past year.  Based upon what the U.S. Coast Guard has seen, the reason is that “fewer undocumented Cubans are leaving the island for the United States, not only through the traditional route across the Florida Straits but also through the newer route across the Yucatán Channel to the Mexican border.”


The change in number is indeed signficant:  the Herald reported that in the 12-month period between Oct. 1, 2007 and Sept. 30, 2008 almost 2,200 Cubans were interdicted at sea and almost 3,000 landed on beaches. With less than a week left for the same period in 2008-2009, less than 1,000 Cubans have been stopped at sea and less than 600 have made it to land. Furthermore, the highest-volume route to the U.S. for Cuban migrants – via the Mexican border — has seen 5621 this year…compared to over 10,000 last year. The Herald concludes:

“No one knows precisely why fewer Cuban migrants are arriving in the United States.”

On my drive to work this morning, the pundits and experts were sharing their theories:

  • the U.S. recession (as if Cubans in Cuba had access to current events, much less the Wall Street Journal)
  • improved Coast Guard patrol methods (suddenly revolutioned after a half century)
  • Mexico’s “toughened migrant policies” (a silly theory which is predicated upon Mexico’s new official policy of repatriating Cubans to Cuba but which wholly fails to consider the fact that corruption among Mexican officials remains as rampant as ever) and…
  • “less restrictive U.S. Cuba policies”.

Hmm.  Now THERE’S a possibility which actually sounds feasible to me.  Perhaps the Obama administration’s elimination of travel and money remittance restrictions could be playing a role.  You see, people like me with family in Cuba can now visit whenever we want and send them however much money we can afford to send (with the Cuban government, naturally, taking a nice chunk of the pie.)  Since economic difficuly is the reason most frequently cited by illegal migrants as the reason for departing Cuba, perhaps this sudden inflow of money is making the situation on the island, well, more bearable?

Who knows?  I suspect the truth lies somewhere between this theory of economic infusion and the theory espoused by the distinguished director of the University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies, Jaime Suchlicki:

“Repression may be tighter in Cuba…there are many things we don’t know.”