Cuba and Mexico Holds Talks as Illegal Migration Increases

By Alejandra Garcia on April 10, 2022 from Havana

Cuban migrants, photo: Lisette Poole

I can’t imagine the anguish of those who decide to migrate illegally. The pain of leaving your country, friends, and family must be unbearable. Migrants need to sell everything in order to afford such a trip. They then need to brave jungles, deserts and dangerous cities, continuously fearing that they will be killed.

It is a common experience for many Latin Americans, who flee their countries to escape from violence, extreme poverty, and unemployment. Caravans with thousands of migrants, children, women, and men, often depart from Central America towards “el norte”, with the hope of reaching the United States. Most of them feel they have no choice but to embark on a dangerous undertaking that could cost them their lives.

Alarmingly Illegal migration from Cuba has increased in recent months. But the reasons that move Cubans to undertake this journey differ from those of migrants from other countries in the region.

The Caribbean island is one of the few nations in Latin America that has managed to eliminate extreme poverty, control violence, and provide decent work for its people. Cuba has achieved this amid the most difficult economic conditions, aggravated by an economic and financial blockade that seeks precisely, to suffocate and create despair for Cubans, forcing them to emigrate.

There are other reasons too, like the violation by the United States of the migration accords with Cuba, the suspension of visa operations by the US Consulate in Havana, and the US decision to transfer visa operations to its consulate in Guyana have virtually shut legal migration by Cubans to the United States.  Yet if Cubans manage to get to the US illegally, they find that the government welcomes them with open arms: either through asylum or the Cuban Adjustment Act that, after a year and a day, grants them permanent residency after granting them parole.

The pandemic, the economic crisis, shortages, and Washington’s suffocating hostilities toward Cuba have led to an increase in the number of Cubans at the U.S.-Mexico border. The White House’s policy toward the island and the facilities it offers Cubans arriving in U.S. territory make running into danger “worth it.”

According to figures from the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), between October 2021 and early March 2022, more than 46,700 Cuban immigrants arrived in the U.S. through the border.

Cuba also confirmed that 1,536 Cubans were returned to Cuba from the United States (1,057), the Bahamas (184), Mexico (291), and the Cayman Islands (4).

These high numbers were the center of recent discussions between two groups of diplomatic missions from Cuba and Mexico, which have been working together for decades for a safe, legal, and orderly migration process. Last week, they held the 15th meeting of the bilateral Working Group on Migratory and Consular Affairs, prior to Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s visit to the island.

During the dialogue, the officials reaffirmed their will and commitment to guarantee an orderly flow of travelers, the fight against human smuggling and trafficking, and the respect for migrants’ human rights.

The dialogue between the two nations brings hope to Cuban families, who are the main ones affected by Washington’s policy, and by the separation.

Amalia Gonzalez, for example, has spent four years without seeing her father, who lives in Washington and whose health prevents him from taking several planes to get to Havana. His back pain is prohibitive. Amalia has tried twice to apply for a U.S. visa. Once from the U.S. embassy in the Cuban capital, and another time in Guyana. She was rejected on both occasions.

She was told she had no right to go to that country because she may be a potential immigrant, being young and a recent graduate. Amalia does not want to permanently leave Cuba. Yet US government policy forces her to emigrate illegally if she wants to see her father again. She is being pushed to climb mountains, cross jungles, and cross swollen rivers.

Cubans, especially those with family members who have died on that journey, will never forget that it was US policy that shut the door on legal migration while encouraging dangerous illegal immigration.

Source: Resumen Latinoamericano – English