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The New Cuban Immigration in Context

Max J. Castro
PAPERS - FIFTY-EIGHT OCTOBER 2002
The Dante B. Fascell North-South Center
University of Miami

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The United States is currently in the midst of a new wave of Cuban
immigration, underway since the early 1990s. However, contrary to popular perceptions — and notwithstanding the deep economic crisis in Cuba, the Cuban Adjustment Act, and the 1994 U.S.-Cuba immigration agreement — the volume of recent immigration from Cuba has been moderate by historical and comparative standards. Historically, the average number of Cuban immigrants entering the United States from 1960 to 1962 and from 1965 to 1973 was significantly higher than the annual average during the last decade.  Comparatively, during the 1990s, the ratio of Dominican, Haitian, and Jamaican immigrants admitted to the United States relative to the population of each country easily exceeded the ratio of Cuban admissions. The major reason for
limited Cuban migration is U.S. policy toward Cuban immigrants, which has moved, in fits and starts, from one of nearly unconditional acceptance of all Cubans fleeing the island to a more restrictive approach. The U.S-Cuba immigration agreement of 1994 has succeeded in substantially normalizing the migration process, but the “wet-feet/dry-feet” policy represents a significant loophole that encourages unsafe, unregulated, and unauthorized migration often carried out by smugglers of human cargo and costly in human life.

Nonetheless, political considerations probably rule out a change in this policy in the immediate future. The current wave of immigrants from Cuba on average are younger than those arriving in earlier immigration waves, but they resemble earlier arrivals in some significant ways. A significant proportion of new arrivals is well educated or skilled, suggesting the potential for successful integration into the U.S. labor market.

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November 10, 2002

 

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