24 | OCT | 2019
Hundreds of Cubans seeking asylum in the U.S. are stranded in Mexico
Hundreds of Cubans hope to be accepted as asylum seekers in the U.S. - Photo: María de Jesús Peters/EL UNIVERSAL

Hundreds of Cubans seeking asylum in the U.S. are stranded in Mexico

10/04/2019
13:12
Reuters
Mexico City
Julia Love
-A +A
Poverty and political repression have driven hundreds of Cubans to fled the Communist island and travel through Mexico in their quest to be granted asylum in the U.S.

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A few years ago, the United States ended a generous immigration policy for Cuban residents but this hasn't discouraged hundreds of them from traveling through Mexico, on a quest to be granted asylum in the U.S.

Moreover, poverty and political repression are the main reasons cited by Cubans for migrating from the Communist island but some in Ciudad Juárez say news of the caravans also motivated them, giving them the impression the United States was accepting migrants, although this is not the case.

“The person who created the media coverage and who drove the issue of the caravans has been President Trump,” Tonatiuh Guillen, the head of Mexico’s National Migration Institute, said on local radio last week.

Cubans have added to the pressure on overwhelmed shelters in Mexico and border authorities in both Mexico and the United States.

On Friday, the White House said that over 100,000 people were apprehended or presented themselves to authorities in March, calling it the highest number in a decade and as a result of the recent flow of Central American migrants, Trump has threatened Mexico with a border shutdown or tariffs.

Many Cubans reached northern Mexico in recent months and ultimately traveled with smaller groups, nevertheless, a caravan of 2,600 migrants is being contained by authorities in southern Mexico, the largest this year, includes dozens of Cuban migrants. Mexican immigration officials said they deported at least 60 Cubans on Friday.

In Ciudad Juárez, Cubans represent between 75% to 80% of the 3,600 migrants in town, said Enrique Valenzuela, director of the state commission for population.

Moreover, this bottleneck in Mexico highlights a new reality: Cubans do not enjoy the same advantages they once did in the U.S.

“For the first time this year, Cubans are being treated like everyone else,” said Wilfredo Allen, a Miami-based lawyer who works with Cuban migrants. “The special door for the Cubans has already closed.”

In 2017, U.S. President Barack Obama ended the “wet foot, dry foot” policy, which allowed Cubans who reached U.S. soil to stay but deported if intercepted at sea, triggering a decline in immigration from Cuba.

In the first five months of fiscal-year 2019, 6,289 Cubans turned up at ports of entry on the U.S.-Mexico border without papers. That number is nearly double the total registered in the fiscal-year 2018, according to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Cubans are also facing a difficult scenario in Mexico, and many are dismayed by the long wait they find, shelter directors say, and they are increasingly concerned about safety after reports of Cubans going missing in Mexico. Few leave the shelters, 10 migrants said in interviews to Reuters.

Experts do not expect the flow of Cuban migrants to decline anytime soon. Obama made it easier for Americans to travel to the island, generating new business but that money dried up after Trump tightened the rules, said Pedro Freyre, a lawyer who studies the U.S.-Cuba relationship.

What is more, a gradual opening of the island’s private sector triggered a backlash from conservatives, creating headaches for small businesses, Freyre said.

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