The end of the Cuban contradiction in U.S. refugee policy

Larry Nackerud, Alyson Springer, Christopher Larrison, Alicia Issac

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The nearly automatic acceptance of Cubans into the United States as political refugees for 35 years represents a contradiction which lingered in U.S. refugee policy. This article provides a description and analysis of the 1994 Cuban Balsero (rafter) Crisis that prompted a decision by the Clinton administration on May 2, 1995, to officially end the open door era for Cuban acceptance into the United States. The resulting policy change 1) terminated the indefinite detention of over 28,000 Cubans held in safe haven camps, 2) repealed the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, 3) put severe new restrictions on travel to Cuba, 4) prohibited the sending of monetary remittances to Cuba, 5) equalized the number of annual visas for Cuba with the other countries of the world, and 6) legalized the return of Cubans intercepted at sea. The authors examine the interaction of variables that set the stage for the Balsero Crisis and analyze how and why its resolution catalyzed the historic policy change. Implications of the resolution of the Balsero Crisis upon problems underlying U.S. relations with Cuba are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)176-192
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Migration Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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