Relatives in Miami wait anxiously to see if Cuban loved ones make it
BY CHABELI HERRERA AND ABEL FERNANDEZ
Dozens of Cuban families in South Florida waiting for relatives without
visas to arrive by land, air or sea were still trying to sort out what
the abrupt change in immigration policy would mean for their loved ones.
Many tried frantically to get in touch with their relatives by phone or
waited anxiously for more than 24 hours to see if relatives would get
Among the lingering questions to the end of the so-called wet foot, dry
foot policy: What will happen to those who are stranded? Can Cubans
still apply to the Cuban Adjustment Act?
At Miami International Airport, more than a dozen families who were
waiting for relatives scheduled to arrive at MIA from Cuba on Thursday,
were still waiting for them to come out of the international terminal on
Little information was available and some relatives said as many as 300
Cubans were stuck inside.
"No one is giving us families information," said Lizette Linares, who
had been waiting for more than 24 hours for her 24-year-old cousin. "We
don't know what's going on."
Some of the Cuban passengers managed to get in touch with waiting
relatives by sneaking cell phones inside bathroom stalls to give them an
update.Her cousin, Javier Rodriguez Ayala, flew to Miami from Santa
Clara on a tourist visa, but intends to stay. He arrived just before
Obama on Thursday announced the immediate end of the "wet foot, dry
The announcement prompted an almost immediate halt of entries for Cubans
at the U.S.-Mexico border, but the situation was less clear at MIA on
South Florida Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said her office was
informed by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that any Cuban national
who arrived prior to Thursday's announcement would be processed under
the policy in place at that time.
"Further, CBP assured us individuals detained for processing would
receive food and water and are allowed to contact family members,"
Just before 1. p.m., a family of three that arrived at the airport at 7
p.m. Thursday finally came out through the glass doors of international
arrivals Terminal D.
The father, Osvaldo, who declined to give his last name, said he had
been denied permanent entry into the U.S. He agreed to enter the country
as a visitor, but he was offered political asylum, if he wished to
apply. As a Spanish citizen, he doubted he'd be granted asylum, Osvaldo
At least 25 to 50 others were still inside waiting to be processed, he said.
Among those was 83-year-old Pablo Borrega's son, Juan Faustino Borrego,
who arrived at MIA on a flight from Havana at 10:45 a.m. Thursday.
The younger Borrego, 56, called his father Friday morning to tell him he
should be coming out soon, but by noon, Pablo Borrego was still waiting
from a seat in front of the arrival doors.
His son arrived before the change in the policy, Borrego said, so he
hoped he would be granted parole into the U.S.
As the day wore on, it seemed less likely Juan Faustino Borrego would be
given entry into the U.S., even though he arrived before the policy changed.
Then, a phone call from Juan Faustino Borrego from inside the terminal
came: "You told them you have a visa for five years?," his father asked.
"They told you they were going to deport you?"
Borrego's face fell. Then he put the phone on speaker.
"Now they're telling us we aren't getting parole because they have an
order and they are going to take [the policy] off," Faustino Borrego said.
Then a person is heard on the call screaming at Faustino Borrego. The
"I knew something was going on," Borrego said.
Confusion on the border
Dalia González, 58, who has been living in Miami for 11 years, said her
nephew, Raúl González, 28, was stranded on the Mexican border.
"I do not know what to do. I'm desperate. We have not slept at all last
night," she said Friday.
González is trying to send money to her nephew so he can find a place to
stay in Mexico. He has an employment contract in Mexico, and although he
still hopes to reach the U.S. and become a permanent resident, he does
not know how.
"Who was going to expect that all of a sudden they would come up with
this news?" said Midamis Martínez Cruz, 37, of Miami.
Her brother, Dennis Pupo Cruz, a 30-year-old from Havana, is on the
Mexican side of the bridge that connects Nuevo Laredo in Mexico with
Texas in the United States. Pupo Cruz left Cuba for Guyana, then crossed
several Central American countries until he reached the U.S. border. He
has a travel permit for 20 days granted by the Mexican government.
He arrived at the bridge over the Rio Grande around 6 p.m. Thursday, but
the border agents did not allow him to enter. He was told that he could
apply for political asylum.
"But if we do that, we'll be detained. We do not know what to do yet,"
Pupo Cruz said Friday. He does not want to return to Cuba.
Two years ago, his sister, Martínez Cruz, made a similar journey: she
left Cuba for Ecuador, which did not require a visa for entry, and
crossed several countries heading north until arriving in the United
States. At the border, under the wet foot, dry foot policy, she was
granted parole within a day of arrival. A year and a day later, she got
her Green Card as stipulated by the Cuban Adjustment Act.
"After risking your life on so many borders, who wants to return to Cuba
and continue in the same prison?" Martínez Cruz said.
Other Cubans who arrived earlier in Nuevo Laredo on Thursday didn't
suffer the same fate.
"God put his hand," said Alvaro Moreno, from Guantánamo, who was one of
the last Cubans to be admitted to the United States on Thursday.
He had arrived at the border in Nuevo Laredo Wednesday around 6 p.m. The
office was packed and he was scheduled for a 1 p.m. appointment
Thursday, but decided to stay to sleep on the bridge.
Around 2 a.m., Border Patrol agents "gathered those of us who were
there." About four hours later, he was allowed entry into the U.S.
"I feel joy for myself, but the sadness that I have for the others
dampens that joy," said Moreno, who traveled for a month and eight days
from Guyana along with 11 other Cubans. Only two managed to enter.
"They are Cubans just like me who sold their houses; they lost
everything during the journey," Moreno said over the phone as he headed
to Florida in a van with 15 other Cubans. All had received parole on
Thursday and were to meet with their relatives.
"Some will stay in Tampa, others in West Palm Beach and others in
Miami," said Israel Portuondo, driver of the vehicle carrying them.
The Cubans had hoped to arrive in Miami on Friday, but the van broke
between Laredo and Houston, and they had to wait for a replacement,
Moreno's uncle, 54-year-old Horacio Wilson, a resident of Hialeah, said
he was looking forward to his nephew's arrival, but that "although he
[Moreno] was lucky enough to fulfill his dream," the president's move
was "something disastrous for those in transit [to the U.S.]."
"They erased their dreams with a single stroke," Wilson said.
Hope at the airport
In Miami, Friday evening saw the end of 31 hours of uncertainty for at
least two Cuban families.
Just after 6:15 p.m., the Linares family's cousin, Rodríguez Ayala,
passed out of immigration and into MIA's terminal D to the welcoming
shouts of relief of his family.
"Thanks to them, I'm here," Rodríguez Ayala said.
Shortly after, Borrego's dad surprised him from behind.
"Papi?" he said, before embracing him. Pablo Borrego, who had kept his
composure all day, broke into sobs.
"This means the world to me," the elder Borrego said. "It was many hours
CHABELI HERRERA AND ABEL FERNÁNDEZ ARE ON TWITTER @CHABELIH AND @ABELFGLEZ
MIAMI HERALD STAFF PATRICIA MAZZEI CONTRIBUTED TO THIS REPORT FROM MIAMI
AND MCCLATCHY CORRESPONDENT FRANCO ORDOÑEZ FROM LAREDO.
Source: Cuban families expecting relatives seek answers on change in
immigration policy | Miami Herald -