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Cuban migration to U.S. drops sharply

MIAMI, Sept. 29 (UPI) -- The number of Cubans trying to enter the United States illegally has fallen off sharply, U.S. officials say.

U.S. authorities said that in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2008, almost 2,200 Cubans were intercepted in the Florida Straits and nearly 3,000 landed on Florida area beaches. But The Miami Herald reported Tuesday that with less than a week left in the current fiscal year, fewer than 1,000 Cubans have been stopped at sea and fewer than 600 have made it to land.

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Even along the newer and more popular immigration route for Cubans --- across the Yucatan Channel to the Mexican border -- traffic was down from 10,030 interdictions in fiscal 2008 to 5,621 this year, the newspaper said.

Interviews with U.S. officials and Cuban affairs experts indicate the U.S. recession, more stringent enforcement in the Florida Straits, tougher immigration policies in Mexico's and less restrictive U.S.-Cuba relations are all playing parts in the slowing flow of immigrants, the Herald said.

Others, however, said the lower numbers were merely part of the normal ebb and flow of migrant traffic from Cuba.

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