Following Fidel Castro’s disposal of the Batista regime, Cuba became known as a refugee state. Thereafter the United States began receiving the majority of Cuban refugees.
- There are more than 1.5 million Cuban refugees living in the United States.
- The Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA) was passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1966. The law allowed any Cuban citizen the legal right to become a U.S. permanent resident after being in the U.S. for at least two years.
- The first type of Cuban refugee consisted of mostly middle and upper social classes. They left Cuba in the 1950s to 1970s following the dictatorship take-over of Fidel Castro. In fear of reprisals from the Communist party, they left everything in search of political asylum.
- The second type of Cuban refugee consisted mostly of poor Cubans seeking economic opportunities in the 1980s.
- The majority of Cuban refugees fled to Florida because of the state’s close proximity. Currently, approximately 68 percent of Cuban refugees live in Florida.
- To counteract the emigration, Castro began incarcerating and executing those he perceived as opponents.
- Between 1960 and 1962, over 14,000 Cuban children were sent to the U.S. by their parents in what was known as Operation Peter Pan. These children were placed in foster homes and cared for by the Catholic Church in an effort to avoid indoctrination into the Communist party.
- In order to go to war with Cuba, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff drafted a plan to trick the American public into supporting a war against Castro. This project was code-named Operation Northwoods and included plans to sink boats filled with Cuban refugees and then blame the violence on Castro. The plan was rejected by the Kennedy administration.
- In 1980, frustrated with the lack of help, a group of Cubans drove a bus through the gates of the Havana Peruvian Embassy to request asylum. The Peruvian ambassador refused to return the asylum-seeking Cubans to the Cuban authorities. Eventually, these Cubans were allowed to seek asylum in the U.S.
- Currently, many organizations focus on giving aid to Cuban refugees and immigrants. Their mission is to search for Cuban refugee rafters in the Florida seas.
Since 2012, the Cuban government began easing its restrictive immigration policies. A visa is no longer required to leave the country. Because of this, there has been an influx of Cuban refugees entering the United States and more are expected this year.
– Marcelo Guadiana