The easing by the Cuban government of restrictions on traveling abroad has led to a rise in the number of Cubans who try to enter the United States through the Mexican border, the Miami Herald reports.
Undocumented Cubans stopped at the U.S.-Mexican border totaled 2,300 from January through August, more than double the 994 in the same time frame last year, the newspaper says, citing Mexican government figures.
Authorities estimate that roughly 13,000 got to the border undetected between Sept. 2012 and Sept. 2013, the Herald says.
The theory for the rise is that Cubans who make it to the U.S. border benefit from this nation’s “wet-foot-dry-foot” policy, which holds that any Cuban national who puts foot on U.S. soil may stay in the country. Those who are stopped at sea often are repatriated.
Meanwhile, Cuban officials say travel abroad has risen 35 percent since the island's government loosened restrictions this year.
Col. Lamberto Fraga, an official in the immigration directorate of the Interior Ministry, says Cubans took 226,877 trips to other countries between Jan. 1 and Oct. 23. In mid-January the government eliminated a widely disliked requirement for an exit permit.
Fraga doesn't say how many trips were made off the island the previous year. He also doesn't provide the total number of people traveling this year — only the number of trips. He does say that 24,000 Cubans made at least two journeys this year.
He says the primary destination for travelers was the United States, followed by Mexico and Spain.
Fraga made his comments Monday.
A Miami lawyer, Santiago Alpizar, said in the Herald story that beside President Raul Castro’s easing of travel restrictions, Cuba’s weak economy has prompted many more people to leave.
The travel changes include eliminating the requirement for Cuban government exit permits, permitting more youths to travel, and raising to 24 months from 11 months the length of time that Cubans are allowed to stay outside Cuba without losing their residency, the Herald said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.