Considering the close proximity of Cuba to the United States, it indicates that there has always been migration between United States and Cuba. During the 1800’s, immigration had become very popular amongst Cuba and the United States. In the 1800’s Cuban merchants and businessmen generally conducted business, and casually visited United States on vacations, and vice-versa. But all that changed when Fidel Castro took over Cuba in 1959, hence, having a significant rise in immigration from Cuba to the United States.
Over the years thousands of Cubans fleeing Cuba on makeshift boats has become a routine to the United States. But the most important of the Cuban migration has happened in the past 40 to 50 years. Since then there were 4 major migration movements that distinguish this particular migration movement from others. The first wave of migration started in 1959 when Fidel Castro took reign of the Cuban government by defeating Dictator General Fulgencio Batista.
Many wealthy and educated white upper and middle class Cubans who were followers of the previous dictator General Fulgencio Batista feared that the sudden change in power would hurt them, so they started leaving Cuba and made their way towards the United States. This wave of the migration which lasted for 3 years, had approximately 250,000 Cuban immigrants leave Cuba for the United States. Many Cubans “temporarily” came to the United States during the first wave because they had a strong feeling that they would return to Cuba as soon as the United States intervened and removed Castro out of his powers.
This particular wave of migration distinguished itself from others because many of the Cubans in the United States considered themselves to be “political exiles” rather than immigrants. The second major migration started in 1965 and continued through 1973. Fidel Castro allowed Cubans with family members in the United States to leave Cuba. Both countries agreed that Cubans with relatives residing in the United States would be transported from Cuba to the United States. Almost 300,000 Cubans arrived in the United States during this period.
The United States government was staggered by the number of people arriving on American soil. This wave of migration was different from the first wave because this migration was more controlled by both the governments. By now this migration of the Cubans was different from the migrations of other nationalities because the United States government started aiding them by starting the Cuban Refugee program. This program which was funded by the United States government was created to help the Cuban exiles with resettling, monthly relief checks, health services, job training, education and food distribution.
Also during this time the United States congress passed the Cuban Adjustment Act, which gave any Cuban immigrant living in the United States for a year or more to get a permanent legal status. The third wave of the migration, known as the Mariel Boat Lift, occurred in 1980. Castro once again allowed Cuban residents to leave Cuba for the United States. But the only difference between these waves of migration to the prior is that the United States did not sponsor this migration.
Approximately 125,000 Cubans took advantage of this opportunity and left Cuba at the port of Mariel and made their way to the shores of Florida. Castro used this method of migration to get rid of all the “unwanted” people in the country. Since a huge number of Cuban upper and middle class chose to leave Cuba for the United States, Cuba’s economy took a downturn, therefore making more Cubans to leave Cuba on makeshift boats. Even though the United States was unaware of this wave of migration, they still chose to help out the Cuban exiles by opening up camps for unsponsored Cubans.
At last, the fourth wave of the Cuban migration started in 1984 and is still going on to this day. During this time the Reagan and Clinton administration passed a number of policies and laws in favor of the Cuban exiles living in the United States. For instance the Clinton administration passed the “wet feet, dry feet policy” which said that the any Cuban immigrant caught on sea between the two countries would be detained at Guantanamo. And if they are able to make it to shore, they will be granted a permanent legal status.
In Conclusion Cubans were given a special treatment for coming from a communist country which made them a diverse migration wave to the United States when compared to any other. So the United States used the Cubans as an example against their fight towards democracy to overcome free enterprise and communism. By doing so, United States broke its own laws and policies by taking in illegal immigrants and giving them a status as a permanent resident, therefore making Cuban migration to the United States a huge icon for the Americans in their fight for democracy to overcome communism.
Due to those staggering number of Cuban exiles, it has helped us live a diverse community full of commitment and dedication through the soles of our feet.
Gutierrez, David. The Columbia History of Latinos in the United States since 1960. New York: Columbia UP, 2004. Print. “History of Cuban Immigration to the United States. ” History of Cuban Immigration to the United States. N. p. , n. d. Web. 25 Sept. 2012. <http://www. usimmigrationsupport. org/cubanimmigration. html>. PBS. PBS, n. d. Web. 25 Sept. 2012. <http://www. pbs. org/now/politics/cubatimeline. html>.