President Barack Obama’s recent relaxing of diplomatic relations with Cuba has apparently spurred a flood of Cubans taking to makeshift rafts to get to the United States.
Officials believe the surge was prompted by concerns that a quick path to legal residency for Cubans may end. Specifically, that the United States might end its “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy with Cuban migrants, officials said.
The Coast Guard said Monday that it stopped 481 Cuban migrants in 37 events in December. That’s up 117 percent from December 2013, according to a report by the Washington Post.
In the first five days of 2015, 96 Cuban migrants were interdicted at sea in seven events in the Florida Straits, officials said.
“The Administration’s recent announcement regarding Cuba does not affect immigration policies, including wet foot/dry foot or the Cuban Adjustment Act, which only Congress can change,” Rear Adm. Jake Korn, Coast Guard Seventh District commander, said in a statement. “U.S. Coast Guard missions and operations in the Caribbean, Straits of Florida and Gulf of Mexico remain unchanged.”
In 1980, a mass emigration of Cubans known as the Mariel boatlift departed from Mariel Harbor for the United States between April 15 and Oct. 31. By the time the it was stopped by mutual agreement between the U.S. and Cuban governments, as many as 125,000 people had made it to Florida.