When Cuba and the United States first announced they would be working toward improving relations, some speculated that it might mean the end of the wet-foot, dry-foot policy that distinguishes Cubans from other Latin American immigrants. The policy, which has given Cubans the right to stay in the U.S. once they reach land since 1995, is still very much in practice.
However, driven by the fear that this privilege will be revoked, more than 40,000 Cubans have made the treacherous journey to the United States since October of last year.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection reports that between October 2014 and September 2015, 43,159 arrived to the U.S. — a number that is nearly double the 24,278 Cubans who reached the U.S. in the same time period the year before. Miami, Tampa, Buffalo, and Seattle are points of entry for Cubans, but the majority – 30,996 – have actually come through Mexico. This is the highest number of entries since 2005.
Without flying in, a straight shot from Cuba to Miami has never been an easy journey, and now, some are making complicated, month-long trips. Take for example, the Rojas family. In August 2013, they flew to Ecuador on a tourist visa. Although some Cubans have had luck in Ecuador, it didn’t go well for them, Angel Reyna Rojas told the Miami Herald. Once they decided to make their way to the United States in late September, it was a 16-step process until they finally made it to Miami around Halloween.
Frankly, these trips are a young man’s (or woman’s) game, which explains why many who attempt to emigrate are between 20 and 40 years old. Cuba currently has an aging population with the country losing many of its youth to the United States, according to The New York Times.