preloder

Extract from Emigración Cubana a Estados Unidos en un Ambiente de Restablecimiento de Relaciones Diplomáticas/Cuban Emigration to the USA and the Renewal of Diplomatic Relations

María Eugenia Anguiano Téllez & Landy Machado Cajide (2015)

The changing political landscape surrounding Cuba has largely been displaced in the media by other dramatic world events, but it is a hugely relevant and interesting area of study, This paper looks at the role of the media in shaping perceptions of the likely directions of future policy, now that relations between Cuba and the US are officially moving towards normalisation.

Noticias y rumores

Reports and rumours

Al iniciar 2015, diversas fuentes de noticias reportaban incrementos del flujo migratorio irregular cubano hacia Estados Unidos, tanto por el Estrecho de la Florida como por la frontera norte mexicana,4 afirmando que las cifras oscilaban entre 50 y 65 por ciento de crecimiento en comparación con el primer trimestre del año fiscal anterior (Cancio, 2015; El Diario mx, 2015; Terra México, 2015).

As 2015 began, a number of different news outlets were reporting an increase in levels of illegal migration [1] between Cuba and the United States, both via the Straits of Florida and the Mexico-United States border,4 variously quantified as between 50 and 60% higher than those recorded during the first quarter of the previous fiscal year (Cancio, 2015; El Diario mx, 2015; Terra México, 2015).

Según estas fuentes, el anuncio del 17 de diciembre de 2014 había creado un clima de incertidumbre asociado a la posible eliminación de la medida pies secos/pies mojados que ampara a los cubanos de la deportación cuando arriban a playas, costas o cayos de Estados Unidos. Las comunicaciones pretendían apoyar la veracidad de los sucesos con declaraciones de funcionarios de la Guardia Costera estadounidense y de organizaciones de apoyo a inmigrantes cubanos en Miami (Diario de Cuba, 2014), e incluso con testimonios de los propios emigrantes cubanos irregulares recién llegados.

These sources suggested that the announcement by President Obama on 17 December 2014 [2], in which he declared the intention of the United States and Cuba to normalise political and economic relations, had created an atmosphere of uncertainty surrounding the prevailing approach to irregular Cuban immigration, the so-called Wet Feet, Dry Feet Policy. The policy offers protection from deportation for those Cubans who successfully arrive at the beaches, coasts or keys of the United States and literally set foot on US soil. The media reports sought to back up the truth of this claim with statements from officials of the United States Coast Guard and organisations which offer support to Cuban immigrants in Miami (Diario de Cuba, 2014); even including accounts from Cuban emigrants themselves, recently arrived through irregular channels.

“La gente lo hablaba, que no iban a recibir a mas nadie si Cuba y Estados Unidos hacían relaciones”, declaro Jordi Escalante Carrillo (citado en Semana, 2015), un joven de 21 años, “quien hizo con otras siete personas en balsa la travesía por el Estrecho de la Florida”, arribando a las playas de Miami el 12 de enero de 2015. Otro emigrante, Luis Roberto Vaca Soto, quien también llego a Estados Unidos en esos días, declaro que “Antes de venir, escucho: ‘Oye, si vas a ir para allá vete ya, porque si Obama y Fidel hacen negocios y se acaba la ley esa, vas a perder, no vas a poderte ir’” (Semana, 2015).

“People were talking about it, saying that they wouldn’t let anybody else in if Cuba and the United States were building a relationship,” said Jordi Escalante Carrillo (quoted in Semana, 2015), a young man of 21, “who made the journey across the Straits of Florida in a raft, along with seven others”, reaching the beaches of Miami on 12 January 2015. Another emigrant, Luis Roberto Vaco Soo, who also arrived in the United States at around that time, recalled that: “Before I came, I heard people say, look, if you’re going to go, go now, because if Obama and Fidel are making deals and they end that law, you’re going to lose your chance, you won’t be able to go.” (Semana, 2015)

A las cifras y rumores, se sumaron las declaraciones de funcionarios de la Guardia Costera estadounidense, quienes “creen además que ‘actores ilícitos que […] se benefician de los inmigrantes cubanos están perpetuando rumores’ sobre la supuesta eliminación de esa política, ‘con el fin de aumentar sus márgenes de beneficio’” (Diario de Cuba, 2015); a pesar de la notificación oficial de la propia Guardia Costera, donde aclaran que sus operaciones se mantenían sin cambios (The United States Coast Guard, 2014). Ante este panorama mediático, vale la pena examinar como se ha comportado el flujo migratorio cubano hacia Estados Unidos en años recientes y cuáles son las condiciones que lo originan.

Along with the various rumours and figures, statements of officials of the United States Coast Guard were thrown into the mix, officials who were quoted to “believe, furthermore, that ‘criminal elements’ who… take advantage of Cuban immigrants are spreading rumours” about the supposed plans to repeal the policy, “in order to increase their own profit margins” (Diario de Cuba, 2015).  This is despite the fact the US Coast Guard’s own official news release makes it clear that no operational changes are planned (The United States Coast Guard, 2014). Against this media background, it is useful to look closely at how the pattern of migration between and Cuba and the United States has unfolded in recent years, and the circumstances which have driven it.

Emigración cubana reciente

Cuban emigration in recent years

Un mes antes del anuncio del 17 de diciembre de 2014, en su columna editorial publicada en El Nuevo Día, el reconocido académico Jorge Duany llamaba la atención sobre el aumento sustancial del número de balseros cubanos, cuya cifra se había triplicado entre 2010 y 2013, incrementándose aún más en 2014 (4.8 veces respecto a 2010). Además, Duany señala que entre 1994 y 2013 “se registró la mayor oleada de emigrantes desde principios de la Revolución Cubana (563 740 cubanos admitidos legalmente en Estados Unidos)”. El autor destaco que las persistentes dificultades económicas en Cuba, las precarias condiciones de vida de la mayoría de su población, la escasez de oportunidades de empleo productivo para una generación de jóvenes cuya vida ha transcurrido en los años de la prolongada crisis económica que data de 1991, así como la política migratoria estadounidense hacia Cuba, continuarían alentando la emigración cubana documentada e indocumentada (Duany, 2014).

One month after the President’s announcement on 17 December 2014, the well-known academic Jorge Duany, in an editorial published by Puerto Rican tabloid El Nuevo Dia, drew attention to the significant rise in the number of migrant rafts arriving on US shores from Cuba, which tripled between 2010 and 2013 and rose still further in 2014 (when this number was 4.8 times greater than in 2010). Duany also states that, between 1994 and 2013, “The US recorded the largest wave of emigrants since the beginning of the Cuban revolution (563,740 Cubans admitted legally to the United States).” The author stressed that the ongoing economic difficulties in Cuba, the difficult living conditions experienced by the majority of the population, and the lack of opportunities for productive employment for a generation of young people who have grown up against the backdrop of the prolonged economic crisis which began in 1991, together with the prevailing US policy on migration from Cuba, would likely continue to drive up levels of emigration from Cuba to the United States, both official and unofficial (Duany, 2014).

Una investigación realizada por el Centro de Estudios de Migraciones Internacionales de la Universidad de La Habana en 2012, también se refirió a los factores internos de la economía y de la sociedad cubanas, que sumados al desarrollo de redes sociales y cadenas migratorias consolidadas, han propiciado el incremento del flujo migratorio regular e irregular, con predominio de motivaciones económicas, de reunificación familiar y de movilidad laboral y social ascendente.

A study carried out by the Centre for International Migration Studies at the University of Havana in 2012 also highlighted internal economic and social factors in Cuba, which, combined with the expansion of social networks and the consolidation of established patterns of chain migration, have stimulated an increase in levels of migration both legal and illegal, predominantly for economic motives, to rejoin family members, and as a result of increasing labour and social mobility.

La limitada capacidad de la estructura laboral para absorber el conjunto del capital humano “creado por la Revolución como sostén de su modelo de desarrollo”, las desigualdades sociales y las dificultades que vive el país desde los años del denominado período especial,5 han “consolidado la idea de la emigración como una estrategia individual familiar de la salida de la crisis”.

The limited capacity for the structure of the labour market to absorb all of the human capital “created by the Revolution in support of its development model”, social inequality and the struggles that the country has faced in the years since the so-called special period have “strengthened the idea that emigration is a viable strategy for individuals and families to escape the crisis.”

El documento fue concluyente: “En la medida en que las transformaciones socioeconómicas no se reviertan en mejoras perceptibles por la población y las opciones del trabajo por cuenta propia no logren satisfacer las expectativas de la fuerza de trabajo potencialmente excedente de los OACE [Organismos de la Administración Central del Estado], la emigración irregular por abandono de misiones y no retorno luego de vencido el periodo del PVE [Permiso de Viaje al Exterior] pudiera incrementarse, debido a los altos costos financieros, las dificultades de los trámites para la migración por vía legal y los riesgos que encierra la salida por vía marítima” (CEMI, 2012:13,15,19).

The document was unequivocal: “Insofar as socioeconomic changes do not lead to tangible improvements for the Cuban population, and opportunities for self-employment do not manage to satisfy the hopes of a potentially surplus workforce deriving from the OACEs [Organismos dela Administración Central del Estado – State Central Administrative Bodies], illegal emigration through defection and failure to return following the expiry of PVEs [Permisos de Viaje al Exterior – foreign travel permits allowing Cuban citizens to travel abroad for up to 10 months] may well increase, due to the high financial costs and bureaucratic obstacles to migration through legal channels and the dangers involved in leaving the country by sea.” (CEMI, 2012:13, 15, 19)

En la gráfica 1 sistematizamos información proporcionada por la Guardia Costera estadounidense entre los años 2003 y 2014 sobre el arribo de cubanos por el sur de la Florida (los llamados pies secos) frente a los interceptados en alta mar (denominados pies mojados). En la gráfica 2 registramos los ingresos de inmigrantes cubanos a Estados Unidos por la frontera norte mexicana, consignados entre los años 2005 y 2014. Por una parte, la información nos permite apreciar un patrón similar de comportamiento en los años de la crisis financiera y económica estadounidenses, mostrando una caída de los tres flujos entre los años 2008 a 2010 y un repunte en 2011. Por otra parte, observamos un notorio incremento de los migrantes interceptados en alta mar a partir de 2011 frente a quienes lograron llegar a tierras estadounidenses ingresando por Florida, así como un voluminoso incremento de los ingresos por territorio mexicano, casi duplicando su número entre 2012 y 2014. Las cifras también muestran que los ingresos por el Estrecho de Florida no alcanzan los volúmenes alarmantes que las fuentes noticiosas alertaban como resultado del 17 de diciembre de 2014, sino que el incremento viene gestándose desde algunos anos atrás, al menos desde 2010 –como bien señalo el profesor Duany– y que el flujo en tránsito por México ha crecido significativamente en años recientes.

Chart 1 systematises the information supplied by the United States Coast Guard for the years between 2003 and 2014 on the number of Cubans making landfall in the south of Florida (who are said to have “dry feet”), in comparison to those intercepted on the open sea (with “wet feet”). Chart 2 indicates the numbers of Cuban immigrants entering the United States via the Mexico-United States border, recorded between 2005 and 2014. On one hand, the data allows us to detect a consistent pattern since the beginning of the financial crisis in the United States, showing a drop in migration levels between 2008 and 2010 and a recovery in 2011. On the other hand, we can see a marked increase in the number of migrants intercepted on the open sea beginning in 2011, in comparison with the numbers who successfully reached US soil to enter the country through Florida, as well as a substantial rise in those entering through Mexico; a doubling between 2012 and 2014. These figures also reveal that migration via the Straits of Florida has not reached the alarming levels that media sources warned would result from the President’s announcement on 17 December 2014. Rather, migration had already been on the increase for some years, at least since 2010, as Professor Duany correctly pointed out. We can also see that immigration via Mexico has risen significantly in recent years.


4A diferencia de lo ocurrido en las etapas de la emigración cubana a Estados Unidos posteriores a 1959, después del 11 de septiembre de 2001, al intensificarse la vigilancia marítima por el Estrecho de Florida, el flujo irregular cubano tomo curso utilizando a México como país de tránsito (Machado y Anguiano, 2015).


4After 11 September 2001, the pattern of emigration from Cuba to the United States underwent a change in comparison with what we saw post 1959. As maritime surveillance intensified in the Straits of Florida, illegal migrants began to take a different route, using Mexico as the country of transit (Machado and Anguiano, 2015).

Copyright © 2016 Ruth Grant. Source text published by Redlyc.org under the Budapest Open Access Iniciative (BOAI-2001).

CITATION

Machado Cajide, L. & Anguiano Téllez, M.  (2015). Emigración Cubana a Estados Unidos en un Ambiente de Restablecimiento de Relaciones Diplomáticas. Migraciones Internacionales [Online], 8 (2), pp. 259-267. Available at: http://www.redalyc.org/articulo.oa?id=15141190009 [Accessed 11 February 2016].

TRANSLATOR’S NOTES

[1]: Questions about the terminology used to describe migrants have become highly topical, with different organisations and media outlets taking different stances. While use of the term “illegal immigration” is often discouraged, in this particular academic context I believe it is the appropriate choice, Should the editor disagree however, the term “illegal” can be replaced with “irregular” without significant loss of meaning – although “irregular” also has its critics, of course.

[2]: Here I have provided a gloss for the benefit of the target text readership, assumed for the purposes of the exercise to be European and reading some 18 months after the event; a context in which the changing relations between Cuba and the US have largely dropped of the media radar.

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