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The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Migration and Refugee Services Department is a well-recognized, historic leader in helping Cubans who have fled their country, have made their way to the United States and are released from US immigration custody. MRS also serves Cubans without relatives in the United States who are paroled directly from Cuba after they win the special Cuban Visa Lottery. The program provides initial processing and resettlement services for those with and without relatives in the United States.
Since 1995, MRS' Cuban Haitian program has served almost 200,000 clients, over 9,000 in 2011 alone. MRS also assisted 18 unaccompanied Cuban and Haitian minors, a particularly vulnerable group.
In recent years, MRS’ Cuban and Haitian Program has begun to recognize an important shift in the migration patterns of Cubans coming to the United States, which will likely play an important role in its response in the coming years. Cubans had traditionally escaped to the United States via a boat or raft directly to the Florida Coast. This continues to be a significant channel for new arrivals. In 2011, MRS served 342 Cubans who arrived in this manner, up from 218 rafters the prior year.
While the actual number of rafters served by MRS increased from 2010 to 2011, there has been a decline in the rate of the total number of rafters/boat arrivals during the past two years. The reasons for this include the financial challenges of their relatives, families and friends in the US, and the effectiveness of the US Coast Guard interdicting those trying to reach the United States clandestinely by sea. In 2011 1,137 Haitian nationals and 1,000 Cubans were sent back to their respective countries. At the same time, there has been a significant uptick in the numbers of Cubans who are arriving in the United States via the Mexico/ US border, with 6,300 Cubans reaching the United States in this manner during 2011. MRS provided support to 914 of these Cubans, a more than 80% increase from the previous year,when MRS provided support to 503.
Help Migration and Refugee Services to continue to provide a lifeline to our Cuban sisters and brothers by making a contribution to the National Catholic Fund for Migration and Refugee Services.
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