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Fearing change in U.S. policy, more Cubans risking their life to reach American shores

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers frisk two of 24 Cuban migrants that came ashore in Key West, Fla., on Monday, Aug. 3, 2015. The group of 23 men and one woman said they left Cardenas, Cuba, 24 hours earlier aboard a 20-foot handmade boat, powered by an 8-cylinder truck motor according to the Key West Citizen.  (Rob O'Neal /The Key West Citizen via AP)  MIAMI OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers frisk two of 24 Cuban migrants that came ashore in Key West, Fla., on Monday, Aug. 3, 2015. The group of 23 men and one woman said they left Cardenas, Cuba, 24 hours earlier aboard a 20-foot handmade boat, powered by an 8-cylinder truck motor according to the Key West Citizen. (Rob O'Neal /The Key West Citizen via AP) MIAMI OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT

The number of Cuban migrants risking sea crossings to U.S. soil has surpassed last year's tally, even as Havana and Washington have restored diplomatic relations.

Coast Guard officials in Miami said Tuesday that over 4,000 Cubans have been caught or intercepted in the Florida Straits, the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean since the fiscal year began Oct. 1.

In the previous fiscal year, authorities tallied 3,731 Cubans attempting to illegally migrate to the U.S. by sea.

Coast Guard officials have said December's announcement of a detente may be driving more Cubans to attempt the journey, fearing the U.S. will change its policy allowing Cubans reaching U.S. land to stay and pursue citizenship.

Cuban migrants caught at sea usually are returned home, including 116 who were repatriated this week.

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