Saturday, October 26, 2013

Mexico detains growing number of undocumented Cubans

Posted on Saturday, 10.26.13

Mexico detains growing number of undocumented Cubans

The number of undocumented Cubans intercepted in Mexico on their way to
the U.S. border has more than doubled in the eight months since Havana
eased its migration controls, according to Mexican government figures.

The Interior Ministry numbers were the latest indication of the greatly
increased flow of Cubans, both undocumented and legal, through Mexico,
Central and South America and the Caribbean over the past year.

Most, if not all of the Cubans, are heading to the United States, where
they are protected from deportation to Cuba, can receive benefits as
refugees and qualify for permanent U.S. residency after one year and one

Interdictions in Mexico of undocumented Cubans totaled 2,300 from
January to August of this year, compared to 994 in the same period in
2012, according to the Interior Ministry.

The number does not include those who make it to the border undetected
by Mexican authorities. That figure has been estimated at well over
13,000 for the 12-month period that ended Sept. 30.

Legal air arrivals to Mexico by Cubans with tourist or migrant visas
also rose from 30,750 in the first eight months of 2012 to 33,017 in the
same period this year, according to Mexican government figures.

Those figures represent an increase of 2,237 arrivals, or 7.2 percent,
although Mexican officials noted that the same person could have made
several entries.

Santiago Alpizar, a Miami immigration lawyer, said many more Cubans have
left the island in recent months, both because of Cuba's moribund
economy and President Raúl Castro's decision to ease migration controls
on Jan. 14.

The January changes eliminated the need for Cuban government exit
permits, allowed more minors to travel abroad and extended from 11 to 24
months the time that Cubans can stay outside their country without
losing their residency and benefits such as free healthcare.

Cubans who arrive in the United States can now obtain permanent U.S.
residency after 366 days under the Cuban Adjustment Act and then return
to the island to retain their residency there. They can then travel at
will between the two countries.

Thousands of Cubans arrive each year via the Mexico-U.S. border because
it is the easiest way of obtaining entry under Washington's "wet-foot,
dry-foot" policy. Those who set foot on U.S. territory get to stay, but
most of those interdicted at sea are returned.

In an island where personal travel abroad was rare before Jan. 14, the
migration reforms were one of the most popular measures adopted by
Castro since he officially succeeded ailing brother Fidel in 2008.

But the reforms also have caused new troubles for some of the
undocumented Cubans intercepted in Mexico, said Eduardo Matias Lopez, a
Cuba-born immigration lawyer in Mexico City.

Under a long-standing Mexico-Cuba agreement, Havana requires the return
to the island of any citizen who remains a legal resident of Cuba, Lopez
told El Nuevo Herald Thursday.

Cubans who have been out of the island for less than two years and are
intercepted in Mexico are therefore paying bribes of $5,000 to $10,000
to win their release from migration detention centers, according to Lopez.

Those who have been out of Cuba for more than two years and are
intercepted can wait the legal maximum of 60 days in a detention center,
the lawyer said. They are then freed with a document giving them 15 days
to leave Mexico — time enough to reach the border.

If they don't want to wait the 60 days, Lopez added, they can pay fines
of about $500 — generally with a bribe added to the fine — to obtain
documents giving them the 15 days to leave or 30 days to start the
process of legalizing their stay in Mexico.

Source: "Mexico detains growing number of undocumented Cubans - Cuba -" -

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