In a reverse of a years-long trend, the number of Cubans interdicted by the Coast Guard or arriving from Mexico is down — way down.
Figures compiled by El Nuevo Herald from the Homeland Security agencies that track Cuban migrants show that fewer than 7,000 undocumented Cubans were interdicted or arrived at the border during the 12-month period that ended Sept. 30 — a huge drop from the peak of almost 20,000 in 2007.
The principal factors for the decrease appear to be the U.S. economic crisis, which makes it tougher for relatives to pay smugglers' fees, and more efficient Coast Guard and Border Patrol methods.
Other possible reasons: Cuba also has reportedly stepped up its patrols to prevent illegal departures, Mexico has toughened immigration rules for Cubans and South Florida law enforcement agencies have cracked down on migrant smugglers. At the same time, Cubans have found it easier to travel to other countries, such as Ecuador and Spain.
Victor Colón, assistant chief patrol agent for the Border Patrol's Miami sector, said the U.S. economic downturn and more effective coastal patrolling have made it much more difficult for Cubans to reach South Florida by sea.
"Federal and local agencies use their assets to collectively patrol smarter," Colón said.
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