Friday Feature: What’s Changing in Cuba?

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Photo Credit:  Patrick Oppman in CNN

Read, see and hear what Cuba is like now in a multi-media feature from CNN.  Images, a video and article from Patrick Oppman focus on the effects of increased travel and reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the U.S.

For all of us who resettle Cuban payrolees, we’ve felt the changes in recent and ongoing surges in Cuban arrivals.  Check out previous Higher Friday Features and other posts highlighting ongoing changes affecting Cuban clients.

(On occasional Fridays, we highlight one entertainment option related to our clients or some aspect of our work to help you celebrate the weekend and possibly recommend to employers and other community supporters in the following week.)

Cuban Border Crossers and Changes in U.S.-Cuban Relations

Camera guyRecently, it seems like Syrian refugees are the only story.  Not true. Significant changes in U.S. Cuban diplomatic relations will continue to have an impact on our work and the lives of our Cuban clients.  There seem to be more questions than answers. What’s next and when?

What are the effects on new Cuban arrivals to the U.S. and the Cuban immigrant communities that welcome them? Cubans in Cuba when I visited in 2006 told me that everyone who stayed behind has family in the U.S. They believed those connections would drive economic growth for everyone.  A rising tide lifts all boats.

Second or third generation Cuban-Americans will have different assets to offer their families back on the island than payrolees (border crossers) still within their first five years in the U.S. Even before diplomatic relations were normalized, limits on remittances to Cuba were relaxed allowing Cubans in the U.S. to send larger sums of money back to Cuba for expanded purposes.  Have these changes resulted in increased financial support for Cubans in Cuba from relatives in the U.S.?Cuban Snip one

The number of unauthorized Cubans arriving in the United States nearly doubled in fiscal 2015, rising to 43,159 from 24,278 the previous year, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data obtained through a public records request. This represents a 78% increase over the previous year. Click here to read more from a Washington Post article and a Pew Research Center report, both from December 2015.

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Photo Credit: Zach Dyer/The Tico Times

The surge in Cuban border crossers has also had an impact on the Latin American countries they often travel through en route to the U.S. and has made the Cuban journey more difficult and expensive. Ecuador, Costa Rica and Nicaragua have tightened travel restrictions in response to increase Cubans transitting across their borders. Border crossers often amass large debts incurred to pay for transportation, fees and bribes en route. How are their motivations, journey and resettlement experience different than in the past as a result of additional obstacles?

“El red Cubano”, the Cuban network, is an informal web of interwoven connections that stretch between Cubans here, in Cuba and along their journey. Information – and sometimes mis-information – spreads quickly through those informal channels. That powerful communication vehicle is almost certainly one factor contributing to increased arrivals.

Higher really want to hear stories about how changes in U.S.-Cuban relations are affecting Cubans on both sides of the 60 mile Straits of Florida that separate Cuba from the U.S.  Please share this post and get in touch at information@higheradvantage.org to offer your insight.

 

Cuba Update

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Cubans working in the city of Trinidad

“El red Cubano” – the Cuban community grapevine –  is a powerful mechanism to spread information – real and imagined.

Continued high numbers of Cuban border crosser arrivals suggests worry about possible changes in parolee status and refugee benefit eligibility.

What’s really going on with U.S.-Cuban relations and what changes could be coming inside Cuba and here?  Read further for one official policy statement followed by two tidbits that could suggest larger changes for Cuba and the Cuban community in the U.S.

1.  Official Policy Statement Maintains the Status Quo – For Now

The U.S. State Department has provided a ‘limited interpretation of normalization’ of the U.S.’s diplomatic relationship with the Cuban Government.  Click here to read the entire Fact Sheet released on July 6.

“The Administration has no plans to alter current migration policy, including the Cuban Adjustment Act. The United States continues to support safe, legal and orderly migration from Cuba to the United States and the full implementation of the existing migration accords with Cuba.”

2.  Sending Money to Family in Cuba Still Complicates Achievement of Economic Self-Sufficiency

Previous relaxation of some sanction policies in 2009 ended limits on the amount of remittances to close relatives.  More recent changes increased the limit on remittances to any Cuban national for humanitarian needs from $500 to $2,000 per quarter.

The vast majority of our Cuban clients send money home to suport their family and friends, often at the expense of their own financial self-sufficiency.  For most recently resettled Cubans, their current salaries are a stricter limit on what they’re able to send home than policy limits.  Expansion could make them feel increased pressure to send more.

3.  Inside Cuba, Economic Opportunities Seem to be Expanding

Click here to read a fascinating article about Cuban internet entrepreneurs in Cuba.  Our Cuban clients are genius at understanding how to make the most of the opportunities they have.  They’re joyful, resourceful, creative and independent.

Our media often talks about a “socialist hangover” to describe a sense of entitlement and work ethic that looks different than expected in the U.S. job market. Many of us have heard Cubans share a common expression about work in Cuba.  “We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us.”

As political and socio-economic changes continue in Cuba, it seems likely that socialist attitudes will, too.

Send any additional insight you can share about how ongoing changes are affecting our clients to information@higheradvantage.org