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Mar 08, 2022 | Rommel H. Ojeda

Mariel Boatlift: The Mass Emigration of Cubans to the United States

The Mariel boatlift was the mass exodus of Cuban immigrants who came to the United States between the months of April and October, 1980.
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The exodus of Cubans who migrated to the United States following an announcement by communist leader Fidel Castro is known as the Mariel boatlift. On April 20, 1980, the Cuban dictator opened the border of Mariel in West Havana and permitted the citizens to leave the country, should they not agree with the ideologies of the communist country.

The very next day, the first Cubans boarding ships crossed the Straits of Florida into the United States. 

The port was open for five months until October 31st, a time period in which a total of 125,000 Cuban citizens (who later became known as Marielitos) had entered the United States. The mass migration put extreme strain on the capacity of U.S. resettlement facilities. While Castro had sent many who had been released from Cuban jails or mental facilities, the majority who emigrated were seeking relief from political repression. 

About 1,700 were jailed in the U.S. and 587 detained until they could find sponsors. About 900 of the Cubans were granted immigration parole after an initial detention by Immigration Naturalization Services were later convicted of and sentenced for crimes ranging from attempted murder to petty theft, which put them back in jail. Their immigration parole was revoked due to these convictions, but Castro refused to accept their return without a formal immigration agreement between the Castro regime and the Clinton Administration.

The Mariel boatlift resulted in the majority of Cubans settling in the Miami area. They later obtained their legal residency under the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966.

Also Read: Legal Help for immigrants in New York State

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