Image: A Cuban migrant shouts "Cuba" after arriving to the beach after crossing the border from Colombia through the jungle as tourist stand by in La Miel, in the province of Guna Yala, Panama

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Cubans Flee Country for Fear of Losing U.S. Special Treatment

Cubans have been leaving their country out of fear that the normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations will affect their special status in America

 / Updated 18 PHOTOS
Image: Cubans migrants await to receive humanitarian visas at a border post with Panama in Paso Canoas

Under the U.S. Cuban Adjustment Act of 1996, Cuban migrants can take advantage of the so-called "wet-foot, dry-foot" policy, which dictates that those who set foot on U.S. soil can stay, while those captured at sea are sent back.

Since late 2015, countries in Central America have seen a surge in the number of Cubans entering. As the U.S.-Cuba relations began to thaw, many Cubans believe their preferential treatment is ending soon and it’s their last chance to go to America and obtain a green card quickly.

Above, Cuban migrants wait to receive humanitarian visas at a border post with Panama in Paso Canoas, Costa Rica on Nov. 14, 2015. 

Juan Carlos Ulate / Reuters
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Image: Nicaraguan riot police stand behind a Costa Rican police officer at a border post with Nicaragua in Penas Blancas

Nicaraguan riot police stand behind a Costa Rican police officer at a border post with Nicaragua in Penas Blancas, Costa Rica on Nov. 16, 2015. On the day before Nicaragua closed its border with Costa Rica to hundreds of Cubans who were heading for the United States, stoking diplomatic tensions over a growing wave of migrants making the journey north from the Communist-ruled country.

Juan Carlos Ulate / Reuters
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Image: Cuban migrant shows her toes decorated with the flags of Cuba and the United States at a temporary shelter in a school in the town of La Cruz, Costa Rica

A Cuban migrant shows her toes decorated with the flags of Cuba, left, and the United States at a temporary shelter in La Cruz, Costa Rica, near the border with Nicaragua, on Nov. 17, 2015.  

27,296 Cubans entered the United States in the first nine months of the 2015 fiscal year, a 78 percent increase from 2014, Reuters reported.

 

Juan Carlos Ulate / Reuters
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Image: A Cuban migrant cuts the hair of a fellow migrant at the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua in Penas Blancas

A Cuban migrant cuts the hair of a fellow migrant at the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua in Penas Blancas, Costa Rica on Nov. 17, 2015.  

JUAN CARLOS ULATE / Reuters
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Image: Cuban migrant Lenin Rivacoba stands at the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, Penas Blancas

Cuban migrant Lenin Rivacoba stands at the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, Penas Blancas on Nov. 18, 2015. He was briefly blinded by tear gas, lost hearing in one ear and is now almost out of money. But Rivacoba, whose first name was given in honor of Soviet revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, says he would rather perish than return to his family in Cuba because it would mean giving up on the dream of a new life in the United States.

Oswaldo Rivas / Reuters
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Image: Cuban migrants use their cell phones in a bathroom at the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua in Penas Blancas

Cuban migrants use their cell phones in a bathroom at the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua in Penas Blancas, on Nov. 18, 2015. Costa Rican Foreign Minister Manuel Gonzalez had proposed a "humanitarian corridor" for Cuban migrants transiting Central America on their way to the United States.  

Juan Carlos Ulate / Reuters
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Image: Cuban migrant Sylenay Valle holds her 10 month-old son Yeryko at a shelter in Liberia

Cuban migrant Sylenay Valle holds her 10-month-old baby Yeryko at a shelter in Liberia, Costa Rica on Nov. 26, 2015.  

The migrants include all kinds of people - from babies to grandparents, blacks to whites.

Juan Carlos Ulate / Reuters
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Image: Cuban migrants have breakfast at a shelter in Liberia

Cuban migrants have breakfast at a shelter in Liberia on Nov. 26, 2015.

Juan Carlos Ulate / Reuters
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Image: Cubans migrants chat as the sun sets in the town of La Cruz

Cubans migrants chat at the end of the day in La Cruz, Costa Rica, on Nov. 27, 2015.   

Juan Carlos Ulate / Reuters
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Image: Marisol Rosales, 63, struggles to come down a hill after she crossed the border with fellow Cuban migrants from Colombia into La Miel in the province of Guna Yala

Marisol Rosales, 63, struggles to come down a hill after she crossed the border with fellow Cuban migrants from Colombia into La Miel, Panama, on Nov. 26, 2015.

Carlos Jasso / Reuters
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Image: Cuban migrants help a child as they walk down crossing the border from Colombia through the jungle into La Miel, in the province of Guna Yala, Panama

Cuban migrants help a child as they walk down crossing the border from Colombia through the jungle into La Miel, in Guna Yala, Panama, on Dec. 1, 2015.  

CARLOS JASSO / Reuters
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Image: A Cuban migrant freshens up in the sea after crossing the border from Colombia through the jungle into La Miel, Panama

A Cuban migrant freshens up in the sea upon arrival in La Miel through the jungle, in Guna Yala, Panama on Nov. 30, 2015.  

Carlos Jasso / Reuters
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Image: A Cuban migrant shouts "Cuba" after arriving to the beach after crossing the border from Colombia through the jungle as tourist stand by in La Miel, in the province of Guna Yala, Panama

A Cuban migrant shouts "Cuba" upon arriving at the beach after crossing the border from Colombia through the jungle as tourists stand by in La Miel, Panama on Dec. 2, 2015. At the time local authorities in La Miel said some 100 to 150 Cubans had been entering Panama from Colombia every day for since September, 2015.

Carlos Jasso / Reuters
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Image: Cuban migrants rests at a temporary shelter in the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua in Penas Blancas, Costa Rica

Cuban migrants rest at a temporary shelter at the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua in Penas Blancas on Dec. 24, 2015.

Oswaldo Rivas / Reuters
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Image: A Cuban migrant removes an inflatable mattress at a makeshift camp at a border post with Panama in Paso Canoas

A Cuban migrant removes an inflatable mattress at a makeshift camp at a border post with Panama in Paso Canoas, Costa Rica on Dec. 23, 2015.  

Juan Carlos Ulate / Reuters
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Image: Cuban migrants prepare pigs for Christmas eve dinner in the town of La Cruz

Cubans prepare pigs for Christmas eve dinner at a temporary shelter in La Cruz, on Dec. 24, 2015.

Oswaldo Rivas / Reuters
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Image: Cuban migrants line up while waiting outside Western Union branch in the town of La Cruz, Costa Rica

Cuban migrants line up while waiting outside a Western Union in La Cruz on Jan. 11, 2016.  

Juan Carlos Ulate / Reuters
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Image: Cuban migrant Ivan Tamayo shows his compatriot Dany Cejas a document which will allow migrants to continue their journey to the Guatemala-Mexico border, at a shelter in La Cruz

Cuban migrant Ivan Tamayo, left, shows his compatriot Dany Cejas a document which will allow migrants to continue their journey to the Guatemala-Mexico border, at a shelter in La Cruz on Jan. 11, 2016.  About 180 Cubans left Costa Rica at night on Jan. 12, 2016.

 

Read more on Reuters.

JUAN CARLOS ULATE / Reuters
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