Protest of Cuban Asylum Seekers Falls on Deaf Ears

The protest involved hundreds of Cubans protest in Ciudad Juarez

Some 300 Cubans took to Paso del Norte international bridge in the night, to ask the Trump administration to let them wait out their asylum process on US soil, saying that they are living in times of crisis in Mexico right now because of violence and precarious living conditions.

By Rocio Gallegos,  Photos: Rey R. Jauregui  (LA VERDAD)

HAVANA TIMES – In an attempt to cross over onto US soil, Cuban migrants crowded together at the bulge of the Paso del Norte international bridge, at the exact point where Mexican and US borders meet, on Tuesday night.

“Let us in, let us in” shouted the men and women in unison. The Trump administration forced to wait out their asylum application process on Mexican soil, under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program. Some of them even went with their small children, holding onto their hands.

“We have waited long enough, we are in a critical situation,” a man said who identified himself as Walter. He said that he had been waiting at this border city for a year and seven months. He must continue to wait for his political asylum paperwork to come through. The US’ Immigration Courts remain closed and there is still no news of when they will reopen.

There were over 150 migrants alongside him, who managed to jump over the pedestrian access toll barriers on the international bridge, so they could get closer to where the US begins. A similar number of people remained at the entry point for vehicles on this crossing that links with El Paso, Texas.

Some of the Cubans said they were looking for a way to get into the US because they fear for their safety in Juarez. Some even reported acts of aggression and blackmail from municipal police officers: “they take our money.” Others said that they went to the bridge because they got a notification on social media and by email. It said the US government was going to let them pass.  

However, the migrants found the complete opposite. They ran into a closed bridge and a column of armed officers from US Customs and Border Protection, as well as El Paso police officers. There were stationed at the bridge to stop migrants from forcing their way onto US soil.

Mexican authorities reported that vehicle and pedestrian access on this international bridge was suspended around 20:30, when Cubans invaded it.

“The migrants were deceived, by somebody irresponsible who made them come here,” said Enrique Valenzuela, the director of the Chihuahua State Population Council, which is responsible for assisting migrants.

Enrique Valenzuela, director of Chihuahua’s Population Council, talks to migrants on Paso del Norte international bridge

Valenzuela went to the bridge to talk to the foreigners. He informed them that the message they received was a lie and asked them to leave the bridge because of cold temperatures, which were dropping fast as night fell. Likewise, because of the risks of crowding together during the COVID-19 pandemic. He also offered to follow up on their accusations of municipal police violence and blackmail.

The migrants didn’t budge. Due to their presence on the bridge, US authorities blocked all lanes of traffic, both for vehicles and pedestrians, with concrete blocks and barbed wire.

They also put up a loudspeaker and transmitted a message in English and Spanish. It warned the migrants they were in a federal zone and that if they crossed, force would be used. Moreover, they would be arrested and processed.

On the Mexican side, municipal police officers circled the bridge and kept them under surveillance.

“We are willing to stay here, to spend New Years here even, to demand they let us in,” shouted Laura, a Cuban woman who was in the first ranks of the migrant column crowded together on the pedestrian south-north path.

Migrants being processed under the MPP Program, known as “Remain in Mexico”, said that they are living in precarious living conditions, have no jobs or lack of a steady income, and are being neglected in a dangerous situation in which their human rights are being violated.

Raul Pino Gonzalez, a migrant from Havana who went to the bridge with his wife, mother-in-law and two children – 8 and 9 years old – said: “we are turning up humanitarian pressure a little so that they know we are lots of migrants waiting here and to see what happens.”

In Mexico ever since December 18, 2019, the man said that US-Mexico immigration policies need to change. “They need to reach an agreement because they are violating due process for migrants applying for political asylum.”

“Losing faith is the last thing and even if we don’t get political asylum. They should let us pass, we are calling out to Mexico and the US. And to Biden, the new US president, to remind him of the presidential campaign promises he made. To make him aware we are here,” he said.

One of Biden’s electoral campaign pledges was to reverse Trump’s immigration policy and cancel the MPP program. [However, Biden doesn’t even take office until January 20th. Analysts also note that Cuba and Cuban migrants are not the first thing on his crowded agenda.]

Some migrants only began to leave around 22:30. The following morning, Mexican authorities working on the bridge reported the migrants left and its lanes were reopened.

(With information also provided by Gabriela Minjáres)

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times


5 thoughts on “Protest of Cuban Asylum Seekers Falls on Deaf Ears

  • January 5, 2021 at 4:24 am
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    Curt I guess u do not get that the Cuban dictatorship doesn’t let the dissidents work in order to bring them to their knees that’s why they get money from outside. But I guess you never had an opinion when Castro was financing and training the Central American guerrillas in El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and on. You far left ppl call it “solidarity”. Ha. Hypocrisy Go to Poland and ask the real ppl if they want to go back to the horrible system they had before. What make u think Cubans are different from the rest of the world?!?!?!

  • January 3, 2021 at 9:47 pm
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    Olga, you are full of tamales, not without them. You haven’t been to Cuba in 40 years, so how can you possibly know what’s going on there . You just believe what the right wing extremist media coming out of Miami says. Also, there were quite a few dictatorships in Latin America that were much worse than Cuba. Argentina, El Salvador, and Guatemala had government sponsored death squads killing whole families in their homes in the late 70s and early 80s. These governments were strongly supported by the Reagan Administration in order to stop communism. I would support the San Isidro movement if they weren’t receiving money from USAID.

  • January 3, 2021 at 6:10 pm
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    Curt, the Cuban economy was destroyed by the king Fidel with his horrible economic experimentations the fact that Cuba now buy sugar from France, and Mangoes from Dominican Republic is not US fault it’s the dictatorship unable to do anything. When you and ppl like you going to understand that in Cuba the only thing that works in Repression. Maybe prostitution. I always wonder what ppl like you going to say The day Cubans would dance on the streets because this 62 years old nightmare is over just like the rest of the ex Soviet block countries.

  • January 3, 2021 at 5:59 pm
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    All those Cuban should protest in Havana. If they never have the courage to do it in there just be quiet in someone else home. Probably those Cubans participate and collaborated with the Cuban dictatorship now they are looking for better life they come over here and a year later they going back to visit Cuba and send money back home supporting that most bloody and inhuman dictatorship in the history of Latin America. I’ve Been out of Cuba for 40 years never been back won’t send money to my family if they want freedom fight for. Enough, send those Cuban back maybe now that they know that protesting is a citizen’s right they got what it takes to protest in Havana against the horrendous 62 years old dictatorship. Viva the San Isidro movement!

  • January 2, 2021 at 1:08 am
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    Why do Cubans always think they’re entitled to special treatment just because they come from a country that is an enemy of the US. They don’t deserve asylum any more than people from Honduras or El Salvador, where many of those migrants lived in fear of their lives because of gangs. If the US kept their end of the bargain by letting 20,000 Cubans come here legally, this would not be happening. Also, the US is trying to strangle the Cuban economy with its Draconian sanctions, which only make it harder for Cubans to survive.

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