The exodus of people fleeing Cuba for the United States hit an all-time high this year as the Caribbean country intensifies its brutal crackdown on citizens, and the United States’ southern border crisis continues to spiral.
Border authorities recorded more than 227,000 Cubans attempting to enter into the United States illegally from December 2021 to 2022, which represents the largest exodus in history, Agence France-Presse reported.
The 227,000 is more than the two largest previous mass departures when 125,000 Cubans left for the United States in 1980 and when 34,000 people did in 1994, Florida International University’s Jorge Duany said.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection stopped Cubans more than 79,800 times from last October through March — more than double all of 2021 and five times more than all of 2020. Overall, the Border Patrol stopped migrants of all nationalities more than 209,000 times in March, the highest monthly mark in 22 years.
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“There are several intertwined factors that have produced a perfect storm for the intensification of the Cuban exodus,” Duany said.
For one, Cuba is experiencing its worst economic crisis in decades due to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns and the tightening of U.S. sanctions.
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Massive street protests this summer and the government’s brutal crackdown also have played a role. Nongovernmental organizations have reported more than 1,400 arrests and 500 people sentenced to up to 30 years in prison for vandalism or sedition.
The Cuban exodus comes as the United States has seen a record amount of illegal immigration at the border with more than 73,000 illegal immigrants evading border patrol at the southern border in November, an all-time record.
There were more than 2.3 million migrant encounters in FY2022 and more than 1.7 million in FY2021. So far, FY2023 is on track to exceed both of those numbers.
“Encounters of Cuban and Nicaraguan asylum seekers fleeing their authoritarian regimes continues to be at an historic high,” Troy Miller, acting CBP commissioner, said last month. “This reflects the challenge that is gripping the hemisphere, as displaced populations flee authoritarianism, corruption, violence and poverty.”
Associated Press contributed to this report