Cuba has agreed for the first time since the pandemic to accept U.S. deportation flights carrying Cubans caught at the U.S.-Mexico border, three U.S. officials told Reuters, giving U.S. authorities a new but limited tool to deter record numbers of Cuban border crossers.
Regular deportations of Cubans were halted during the COVID-19 pandemic, though the United States continued to deport a small number of Cubans via commercial airlines, a separate U.S. official told Reuters.
The resumption of ICE deportation flights to Cuba could send a symbolic message to would-be migrants who typically fly to Central America and travel north to the border. A record 220,000 Cubans were caught at the U.S.-Mexico border in fiscal year 2022, which ended on Sept. 30. The vast majority were released into the United States to pursue immigration cases.