Number of Cubans Defecting To the United States Growing

According to Jorge Duany, director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University, the increase could be the result of a number of factors.

"It's due to the continuing economic downturn in Cuba, which is leading a large number of people outside of Cuba," he said during an interview with ABC/Univision News. "Short-term reasons for this rise could be that there are a number of people who are unemployed and looking for a job in the small private sector in Cuba who were laid off by the government and have doubts about future prospects."

Duany added that Fidel Castro's impending death and uncertainty about the "so-called transition" may be leading some Cubans to leave the country, as well as changes in Cuban regulations that will take effect in January.

While Cubans have crossed into the United States through Mexico for years, Duany said Cubans have recently sought entrance through Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. From there they pass into Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory.

Cubans with relatives in the United States have a better chance at getting visas to enter legally, leaving those without family in the country searching for other means of entry.

"In general, those who come without authorization are the ones without immediate relatives in the United States," Duany said, "That's the way the law is set up, so those people have a better chance. But many people don't have mothers or brothers in the U.S. and they're forced to use other means, and typically they will cross the border without authorization."

"There is disappointment with the changes Raúl Castro is introducing and the perception that it's not going to go anywhere and that Cuba is going to be a disaster," Suchlicki said. "There is a tremendous disillusionment and people want to get out of Cuba."

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