The Obama administration’s effort to normalize relations with Cuba is generating a surge in immigration from the island nation to the U.S.
In the first nine months of fiscal year 2015, 27,296 Cubans entered the U.S. through official ports of entry according U.S. Customs and Border Protection data reported by the Pew Research Center.
That level of immigration represented a 78 percent increase over the same timeframe the prior year, when 15,341 Cubans entered the U.S. Pew notes that those figures are much higher than the entire fiscal year 2011 when just 7,759 Cubans entered the U.S.
“The spike in the number of Cubans entering the country came in the months immediately following the president’s announcement. From January to March 2015, 9,371 Cubans entered, more than double the 4,296 who arrived during the same time period in 2014,” Pew reports.
Pew’s analysis of the dramatic increase in the level of Cuban immigration to the U.S. comes in the wake of a recent expose from the Florida Sun Sentinel which revealed the extent to which a number of Cuban refugees in Florida have been abusing the U.S. welfare system.
According to the Sentinel, Cuban immigrants have largely been deemed to be refugees fleeing persecution. As other refugees are, Cuban refugees are granted immediate access to welfare. The Sentinel’s investigation revealed that instead of using those public assistance as intended many Cuban refugees have using their benefits in Cuba.
“Cubans’ unique access to food stamps, disability money and other welfare is meant to help them build new lives in America. Yet these days, it’s helping some finance their lives on the communist island,” the report read. “America’s open-ended generosity has grown into an entitlement that exceeds $680 million a year and is exploited with ease. No agency tracks the scope of the abuse, but a Sun Sentinel investigation found evidence suggesting it is widespread.”
Pew’s analysis makes no mention of the Sentinel’s expose. Pew did note that currently about 2 million people of Cuban decent live descent, 57 percent of whom are foreign-born.