Burgeoning Numbers Of Cubans Trying To Enter US Via Mexico
WCCO CBS Minnesota
May 13, 2019
CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (AP) — Burgeoning numbers of Cubans are trying to get into the U.S. by way of the Mexican border, creating a big backlog of people waiting on the Mexican side for months for their chance to apply for asylum.
The surge over the past several months has been propelled in part by loosened travel restrictions in Central America and deteriorating living conditions in Cuba.
As a result, about 4,500 people, the vast majority of them Cuban, are crowded into Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas, while they wait to be called for their asylum interviews — an influx that has raised tensions with the locals in some cases.
“It’s a bottleneck with an opening that is getting smaller,” said Enrique Valenzuela, an official of Mexico’s Chihuahua state, which manages Juarez’s waiting list. “People keep coming.”
For decades during the Cold War and beyond, Cubans tried to reach the U.S. by air, land and sea, many of them crossing the 90 miles to Florida in dangerously rickety boats and rafts.
In January 2017, though, the U.S. ended its “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy of almost automatically admitting any Cuban who managed to reach American soil. For many Cubans, their best option is going to the U.S.-Mexican border and claiming asylum.
For many years, Cubans entering through the southern border generally flew to South America and tried to come into the U.S. at Laredo, Texas. But now many are using a relatively new and shorter route: They fly to Panama or Nicaragua, pay smugglers to help them reach the U.S. border, and seek to come across at El Paso.
In the seven-month period from October through April, 4,737 Cubans without legal status entered the U.S. at crossings in Customs and Border Protection’s El Paso field office, compared with 394 in the previous 12 months. Along the entire U.S.-Mexico border, 10,910 Cubans came through official crossings between October and April, versus 7,079 in the previous 12 months.
Migrants applying for asylum are often released into the U.S. while their cases make their way through immigration courts, which can take years. But for Cubans, it’s easier to settle in the United States than for others.
Communist Cuba refuses to fully cooperate with the U.S. on deportations, meaning that if the migrants lose their asylum cases, Cuba generally doesn’t take them back. The U.S. then has little choice but to let them stay.
For Cubans and others, one of the biggest obstacles is simply getting an opportunity...