Unlike citizens of other countries, Cubans who make it to US borders have special entry privileges under the Cuban Adjustment Act, which gives Cuban citizens special welfare benefits and allows them to apply for permanent residency after 366 days in the country.mUnder the act, Cubans who set foot on US territory are treated as legal immigrants, while people from any other country are considered illegal.
46,500 Cubans arrived and were admitted to the US without visas during the first 10 months of the US government’s fiscal year 2016, according to the Pew Research Center. That figure compares with more than 43,000 Cubans in 2015 and just over 24,000 in 2014. The US Coast Guard on Saturday reported that since October, at least 5,786 Cubans have been intercepted at sea trying to reach the southeastern US coast.
There has been a large increase in the number of Cubans attempting to reach the US by overland routes through South and Central America. Regional governments have also responded to the increase in Cubans travelling overland to the US by closing down border routes. Nicaragua was the first country to close its borders in November to Cubans travelling overland to Mexico and on to the US. Though initially facilitating the transit of several thousand Cubans through its territory, Costa Rica also closed its borders in April as numbers grew. Nearly 1,300 Cubans around (300 are children aged 14 and under, as well as 11 pregnant women,) are currently stranded in miserable conditions on the Colombia-Panama border after that route was closed.