WASHINGTON — The surge of Cubans fleeing to the United States could grow as uncertainty swirls around the island about whether Donald Trump will end the still nascent U.S. diplomatic relations with Cuba once he becomes president.

Experts say the current influx of Cubans, which is already double the rate that existed before relations were restored at the end of 2014, could rival the 1980 Mariel boatlift, especially if Trump fiddles with the special privileges Cuban immigrants receive from the United States. Trump and some Cuban-American leaders such as Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., have suggested curbs on those privileges.

“Our biggest fear should be another Mariel,” said Eduardo Gamarra, who helped arriving Mariel refugees in the 1980s and now is a professor of international relations at Florida International University. “I’m not saying it’s going to be another Mariel, but we should be prepared. The notion of opening gave people hope. Closing doesn’t give anyone hope. Closing gives them fear.”

The United States is already undergoing one of the greatest influx of Cubans since the 1980 Mariel boatlift when Fidel Castro allowed more than 125,000 Cubans to leave the country amid a weakened economy.

In the days since, there have been signs of anxiety among ordinary Cubans, who lined up outside the U.S. embassy in Havana on the day after Republican Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 presidential election. The Cuban government followed with an announcement that the military would be conducting tactical exercises to prepare troops.

The death of revolutionary leader Fidel Castro a few days later and the struggles of the Cuban economy have increased uncertainty on the island.

Groups that assist Cuban migrants such as Church World Service have made sure they have additional places for refugees to stay if they see an uptick in arrivals. Miami schools are ready for another “potential influx.” Between July 2015 and January 2016, Miami-Dade schools enrolled more than 13,000 foreign-born students, most of whom were from Cuba.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.