Illegal migration to US by Cubans surges after rapprochement

In this Dec. 30, 2014, photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, members of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Knight Island approach a boat with 12 Cuban migrants southwest of Key West, Fla. AP Photo

The number of Cubans trying to reach the US illegally by sea surged in December, after Havana and Washington announced a landmark rapprochement, the US Coast Guard said.

President Barack Obama and Cuban counterpart Raul Castro announced December 17 that the two countries would revive diplomatic ties severed during the Cold War and move to ease the five-decade US trade embargo.

In December, the US Coast Guard plucked 481 Cuban men, women and children trying to reach Florida from rickety often homemade boats — double the number from a year earlier, the coast guard said.

The figure represents a 117 percent increase from December 2013, said Rear Admiral Jake Korn, Coast Guard 7th District commander.

On the first few days of January 2015, another 96 Cuban migrants were picked up at sea, the coast guard said.

The surge might suggest more Cubans believe it is time to risk crossing the shark-infested Florida straits, for the United States, since US bilateral policy changes are now afoot.

At present, the United States allows every Cuban who arrives on American soil to receive US residency, and the right to work…