Cubans have been heading north to the United States and Canada for years. Pushed out by the repressive system under communist dictator Fidel Castro, the Cuban exiles of recent decades have united to become an influential economic and political force. Since 1959, the United States has welcomed hundreds of thousands of Cuban immigrants. Some exiles have traveled comfortably in airplanes; others have braved the dangerous Straits of Florida in shoddy rafts. U.S. leaders have sometimes modified immigration policy, often in response to the massive waves of Cuban migrants, like those arriving in the boatlifts of 1980 and 1994. Leaders of the Cuban American community push the U.S. government to continue offering refuge to the migrants who need it.
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