A record-breaking number of Cubans have arrived in the U.S. over the last two years, according to updated data released by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Agency.
Slightly fewer than 425,000 Cubans were encountered at U.S. ports of entry in fiscal years 2022 and 2023, according to CBP, and 200,287 of those arrived in fiscal year 2023, which ended in September. Most were apprehended at the U.S. border with Mexico, a marked change from previous waves of migration.
Those figures have smashed records. More Cubans have come to the U.S. in the last two years than came during the Freedom Flights, which saw 270,000 Cubans leave the island over a roughly eight-year period between 1965 and 1973. They are also greater than the combined numbers of Cubans who left during the 1980 Mariel Boatlift and the 1994 Balsero crisis.
The sharp uptick in Cuban migration comes as Cuba’s economy has stagnated over the last few years, leading to widespread blackouts, shortages of food and medicine and deteriorating quality of life for the country’s inhabitants.
It also follows continued dissatisfaction toward Cuba’s communist government, which has struggled to turn unfavorable economic tides in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and a political and economic crisis in Venezuela, a major ally of Havana. The island’s leaders have also failed to negotiate with Washington on a reprieve on U.S. sanctions, which have historically limited Cuba’s trade and investment opportunities.
Dissatisfaction with the communist government resulted in widespread protests in the country in July 2021 and intense repression in response from authorities against dissidents.
The Cuban government has blamed the U.S. embargo for driving the migration surge.
The increase in Cuban migration has coincided with a surge in arrivals at the U.S.-Mexico border from various Latin American and Caribbean countries over the last few years — a political headache for the Biden administration ahead of the 2024 election.
The administration has sought to expand alternative pathways for migrants to enter the country legally, while also tightening security at the border.
But government data suggests that the policies have yet to translate into an immediate change at the border. Roughly 3.2 million migrants arrived in the U.S. in the last year, an increase of nearly 500,000 from the previous year, according to the same CBP dataset.