Human Trafficking Between Cuba and the USA

Fernando Ravsberg*

Ecuador has become a springboard for Cubans wishing to reach the United States.

HAVANA TIMES — Cuban émigré Mercedes Morera Roche pleaded guilty in the United States of conducting illegal human trafficking operations between 2004 and 2011. During that time, she had taken in a part of the US $ 6.6 billion that these criminals move around the world (1).

Mercedes arranged safe passage through Central America and Mexico for migrants, most of whom were Cubans arriving from Ecuador, the only country in the region that does not require Cubans to have a visa. She would provide them with instructions, fake identity documents, safe houses and transportation.

Despite her guarantees, the Ecuador-US route is teeming with danger. In El Salvador, the Mara Salvatrucha routinely kidnaps illegal immigrants of any nationality. It is said they have carried out more than 22,000 kidnappings (2).

Cuban migrants have also met with very difficult situations in Mexico. In 2008, armed groups hijacked a bus from the Chiapas Detention Center and took with them the 33 illegal Cuban migrants on board.

In 2010, Mexican authorities rescued 6 illegal Cuban immigrants who had been taken hostage by these groups, in Cancun. The previous year, 14 others had been mistreated and beaten in an abandoned house in this city.

The number of Cubans travelling by land grew quickly after the United States approved its “dry foot – wet foot” policy, which establishes that all Cubans captured on rafts in the high seas are to be repatriated by the US Coast Guard.

Half a million émigrés visit Cuba every year. The United States continues to grant them the status of political refugees.

The number of rafts intercepted by the Coast Guard is massive, such that the only viable option left are speedboats from Miami. Over the past ten years, nearly 90% of Cuban migrants have traveled by land. Last year, some 22,000 entered the United States through the Mexican and Canadian borders.

The trip costs US $10,000 per person, and the bulk of this traffic is financed by Cuban Americans (3). They pay for their relatives to be able to reach the border and avail themselves of the Cuban Adjustment Act, which has guaranteed residency to any Cuban who sets foot on US soil since 1966.

Double Standards

Cuba’s migratory figures are the most publicized, but Cubans are not the only ones who undertake these illegal journeys to the United States. Mexicans cross the border in far larger numbers, and Dominicans set sail to the US in their “yolas”, and no one much cares how many of these makeshift boats sink in the ocean every year.

In 2011, the number of Cuban-born US residents reached the figure of 1,090,563, while that for Mexican-born residents was 11,691,632 and immigrants from El Salvador – a nation with half the island’s population – were reported at 1,245,458 (4).

Miami’s anti-Castro media speak of 2 million Cuban émigrés, but they are inflating the actual figure by adding all residents of “Cuban origin”, including the sons and grandchildren of immigrants, all of them born in the United States.

Cuban immigrants have always been made a political issue, presented as persecuted individuals who are fleeing communism and given the status of refugees by the United States – despite the fact that 500,000 of these alleged “exiles” visit Cuba every year without anything happening to them.

Washington deals with the issue of immigration with a double standard. It applies contention policies on other countries, and even worked with the Dominican government to launch a media campaign that included taped interviews of people who had lost relatives at sea.

Ninety percent of Cuban immigrants travel by land to cross the border into the United States, where they are received with open arms.

Mexico did the same thing, publishing a CD for local radio broadcasters across the country titled Migracorridos. The songs in the CD describe the dangers and risks faced by illegal Mexican immigrants in their journey to the United States.

In Cuba’s case, by contrast, it maintains an Adjustment Act that tempts Cubans to take the risk. Most of the benefits this legislation affords apply to those who do not have a visa to travel to the United States, that is to say, those who reach US borders illegally.

Cuba’s laxer migratory laws now allow citizens to travel freely, multiplying their chances to emigrate, but the only countries that open their doors to them are Ecuador and the United States. The former has become a kind of trampoline for reaching the latter.

With this state of affairs, it isn’t strange that the number of people risking their lives is growing and that more and more people are paying traffickers like Mercedes Morera, in the hopes of one day enjoying the benefits of living in a developed country.

(*) Visit Fernando Ravsberg’s website.

11 thoughts on “Human Trafficking Between Cuba and the USA

  • Unbelievable….the one sided ….anti US of a comments by a “few” that ALWAYS can be found here…..and they know WHO “they” are……but not sure “what” they are

  • Yes, I am Canadian and my English comprehension is just fine, thank you.

    Was there a point to your comment?

  • Griffin, are you really a Canadian as you claimed? It seems you don’t even understand the simple English in which Dan wrote. Please first improve your English comprehension before you attempt to rebut others.

  • Wikipedia defines “paranoia” as a thought process believed to be heavily influenced by anxiety or fear, often to the point of irrationality and delusion. I have no ‘fear or anxiety’ regarding Fidel and Raul Castro. On the contrary, what I feel is “disgust” which is defined as an emotional response of revulsion to something considered offensive or unpleasant. By the way, the US remains the world’s most requested destination for both temporary and resident visas. Lots of right-minded folks I guess.

  • Actually, there are thousands of Canadians who visit the US every week. And over 1 million who live in the US. Of course, we are free to come and go as we like given that Canadians and US residents enjoy the full set of individual rights and freedoms.

  • Actually Dan, we do read about refugees and migrants coming to the US from many, many countries around the world. In fact, more people move to the US than to any other country in the world. It must be because it’s such an awful place.

    By the way, where do you live? Any plans to move to Cuba?

  • I’m Canadian and can tell you that an over 1 million Canadians live in the US. In addition, it is very common for retired Canadian “snowbirds” to spend each winter in the southern US, Florida & Arizona being the most popular. Millions of Canadians travel to the US on business or vacation every year.

    The rest of your pathetic comment is not even worth responding to.

  • What a bizarre comparison, Canada and Cuba. Why in God’s name would any sane Canadian wish to cross the border to the paranoid, war mongering cess pit of the US of A? By a similar token what right minded individual would step foot in the US of A?
    Perhaps you should be seeking professional help with your deep seated obsession and unfounded paranoia regarding Fidel and Raul Castro. Look a little closer to home for home grown megalomaniacs, hypocrites and holier than thou self serving creeps.

  • In as much as this blog is called Havana Times, it is not worthwhile to compare Cuban life to life anywhere else except to say that when basic human rights are absent, life is very difficult. I know a great number of Cubans who have migrated to the US. None of them, not one, pondered about the quality of life in any of the other countries you mentioned before deciding to leave Cuba. Their only thought was given to improving their life in the US. A part of that decision was based on the lack of freedom in Cuba.

  • Wrong. What he points out is the phenomenon of the “worthy Victim”. In the US media and popular mind, a Cuban doesn’t travel here to make more money in the First World. He “flees here for his freedom” or some such other nonsense. On the other hand, never, but never, will you read that a Mexican, a Salvadorean, a Dominican, ect. are fleeing the ravages of US/IMF imposed neo-liberal policies and their sequelia which make life in those countries worse than in Cuba.

  • This article is based on faulty logic. Fernando would have us believe that because of the CAA, Cubans leave family and friends to risk their lives to illegally migrate to the US. It should occur to him that if their lives were not so horrible in Cuba, there would be form of incentive sufficient to cause this outmigration. After all, there are no huge numbers of Canadians crossing the border to come to the US. The problem is the Castro regime, not US policy.

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