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News > Cuba

Record Number of Cubans in ICE Detention Centers

  • A vintage U.S.-made car passes beneath a mural of Che Guevara in Revolution Square in Havana, Cuba.

    A vintage U.S.-made car passes beneath a mural of Che Guevara in Revolution Square in Havana, Cuba. | Photo: Reuters

Published 30 March 2019

Cubans often have an easier process migrating to the United States than other immigrants when U.S. foreign policy was rife with Cold War-era policies. 

The number of Cubans who are being taken to the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers and then deported to Cuba is on the rise. Previously, Cubans had an easier process migrating to the United States than other immigrants when U.S. foreign policy was rife with Cold War- era policies. 


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According to figures from ICE, 160 Cubans were deported during the fiscal year 2017. The following year, the number rose to 463, marking an increase of 189 percent in one year. "What can I tell you? Six months of suffering, despair and agony," Midalis Eunice Rodriguez, a Cuban woman arrested by ICE, recounted. 

For six months, the main means of contact between Rodriguez and her husband was through video calls. Rodriguez's husband is one of about 300 Cuban immigrants detained in ICE centers in Louisiana and who suffers from a medical condition that prevents him from walking. "My husband is going through a very difficult situation. Imagine, in a wheelchair in detention where they have you help you to bathe," she said.

Immigration lawyer William Sanchez confirms that this is the first time so many migrant Cubans are being taken to detention centers. "If they do not have a good political asylum case when they arrive, they are arrested and detained. They are filling the camps on the border and then moved to detention centers in other parts of the country, exclusively due to current immigration issues," Sanchez explained.

"They are sent where there is space... At the moment, it looks as though things will continue to get worse... And not only for those who arrive and ask for asylum, as many Cubans who committed crimes years ago are also being picked up," the lawyer stated. 

When Barack Obama was president of the United States, he ended the "wet foot, dry foot" policy that allowed Cuban nationals to stay in the country if they stepped on U.S. soil. 

The Obama administration, in an attempt to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, prioritized the deportation of undocumented immigrants who had committed violent crimes. When the Trump administration came into power, legal memos indicated that they were targeting everyone, including Cubans with legal status who committed non-violent crimes.

According to ICE figures, 395 Cubans remained in detention with a final order of deportation. Out of this fgure, 220 are previously convicted criminals. Because of the special privileges enjoyed by Cubans in the past, many did not apply for citizenship after obtaining legal residency. As the deportation of Cubans become the norm, Cubans are setting up appointments to take citizenship exams and avoid the uncertainty of these new conditions. 

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