In spite of privileges for Cuban immigrants being revoked, the stream of Cubans trying to make it to the US illegally seems to have picked up again.
HAVANA TIMES – International press reports have shed light on the silent emigration of Cubans abroad (the magnitude of which is still unknown), amidst a tough economic landscape in the country and an increase in political tensions with the US government.
Several media outlets have reported the presence of hundreds of Cuban immigrants in different Central American countries, who set off on their journey to ultimately settle down elsewhere, especially in the US.
And, this comes in spite of the “Wet-foot/Dry-foot” policy being revoked in January 2017 by then US president Barack Obama (2009-2017), which benefitted Cuban citizens giving them the opportunity to seek asylum and even permanent residency, as soon as they set foot on US soil.
From then until now, there has been a significant decline in the number of Cubans who have arrived in the US, although experts underline that thousands of Cubans are still leaving, but they are heading towards new destinations now.
One of the most recent reports, published on March 12th, reported that the US Coast Guard intercepted an improvised boat with 26 Cubans onboard, 77 kilometers to the south-east of Long Key, in the Florida Keys.
According to this US body’s own statement, 25 of the immigrants were deported back to Cuba, while the other was sent to a US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) office and is facing possible criminal charges which the authorities didn’t reveal.
A CBP report has revealed that over the past 6 months, 6,289 Cuban citizens have crossed the Mexico-US border illegally and asked for political asylum.
This figure is still less than the 7,079 that arrived illegally in the 2018 fiscal year (October 2017-September 2018), although if things carry on at this rate, this year’s figure will far exceed this number for sure.
In December 2018 alone, 1,466 Cubans were registered at border-crossing points in the US south, the report indicated.
Now that the benefits of yesteryear have been revoked, these immigrants are forced to request political asylum and prove that going back to Cuba would imply putting their lives in danger.
Most of the time, they end up being held in Immigration Service centers for months on end, without any guarantee that their application for asylum will be approved.
The US’ diplomatic mission in Cuba has suspended its consular services for more than a year now, after US and Canadian diplomats suffered mysterious health incidents, which has made immigration requests even harder for the Cuban people.
The Central American route
Several Central American countries are on Cubans’ itineraries to make it to the US, although they are far from the levels of the immigration crisis that began in November 2015.
Up until last week, 192 Cuban citizens were staying in Colegio de Bachilleres’ gym in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, waiting to be able to enter the US and request for asylum, the State’s Social Development Institute and Mexican Institute of Immigration detailed in a census.
Another 600 are under Panamanian authorities’ custody in humanitarian shelters, as part of a program to find an organized way to send them to the North.
Panama’s Minister of Public Safety, Jonattan Del Rosario, pointed out that the shelter in the Gualaca District, on the Costa Rican border, is providing refuge to some 300 immigrants from the island, while a similar figure are in the Caribbean coastal town of Puerto Obaldia, right next to Colombia.
In late February, the Honduran Police reported in a statement that 45 undocumented people from Cuba had been detained, entering the country illegally with the goal of reaching the US.
Experts have even pointed out that Nicaragua might become a new stop on the route for Cuban immigrants to reach the US, after it was recently announced that the visa application process for Cubans was being made more flexible.
A source close to the Embassy in Havana told the press that the new procedure involves presenting a valid passport at the embassy, having a return flight ticket, filling out the information that the authority asks for and paying 30 CUC (Convertible Pesos, equivalent to the dollar) at the International Finance Bank.
Once they have their visa, Cubans will have 30 days to travel to the Central American country once and stay for the same period of time.