More than 15,000 Cuban immigrants entered the United States irregularly across the Mexican border during the last three months, with a record 5,870 last October, according to official statistics.
And the alarms have begun to sound with the opening of air traffic from Cuba abroad, on November 15, and especially this week, after the announcement of the Free visa for Cubans in Nicaragua, surprisingly decreed by the government of Daniel Ortega.
According to records from the Department of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) obtained by CiberCuba, Between August and October of this year, 15,178 Cubans entered through points of the southern border, which exceeds the total of 13,410 that arrived during the entire fiscal year 2020.
The updated data on the flow of Cubans in the border strip of Mexico confirm the unstoppable migratory stampede to US territory, even challenging the mobility restrictions due to the pandemic and the legal barrier imposed by the elimination of the policy of “dry feet / wet feet“since January 2017.
Although after the repeal of dry feet / wet feet it ruined asylum benefits and limited the entry of Cubans to the United States between 2017 and 2018, subsequent fiscal periods have registered an exponential rise in irregular entries due to the so-called “ Central American route ”.
Only in fiscal year 2021, ended on September 30, the arrival of Cubans by land, it shot up to 39,303, of which 38,674 went through the Mexican border. A drastic growth of 180 percent compared to the previous period. Another 829 Cubans tried to reach across the sea and were captured by the Coast Guard.
The Cuban migratory wave was strengthened again as of last February, after the arrival of Joe Biden to the White House and the relaxation of immigration regulations under the Democratic administration.
According to CBP data, since last February a total of 28,801 Cubans have risked entering using the Central American route, although the entry does not mean that they will be able to regularize their legal status in the United States under the Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA) .
The conditions seem created for a new migratory peak to the United States after the green light for him entry of Cuban nationals without a visa to Nicaragua from this monday.
The announcement made on Monday night by the Ortega regime was based on “the number of requests from Cuban citizen brothers with relatives in Nicaragua, and in order to promote commercial exchange, tourism and humanitarian family relations.”
But apart from the “humanitarian reasons” put forward, the truth is that the news unleashed a furor among potential travelers from Cuba and many other Cubans stranded in Latin American countries and in Europe, while they seek alternatives to reach the United States by any means.
“We are in the preamble of a crisis with Cuban immigrants that this administration will have to face”, considered Willy Allen, a well-known immigration attorney in Miami. “We are going to see it in the next few months.”
From the early hours of Tuesday, dozens of Cubans flooded the offices of the Copa airline in Havana in order to obtain a ticket to Panama as a transit route to Nicaragua. From abroad, relatives and travelers tried to find a ticket that would take them to Managua in the next few days.
Following the Nicaraguan announcement, the Panamanian embassy in Havana recalled that Cubans traveling to a third country With a stopover of less than 12 hours in Panama, they will not need to request a visa from the isthmean country.
The possibility of flying to Nicaragua is highly attractive for thousands of Cubans stuck in third countries in Latin America, Europe and even in the Middle East.
In the case of Cuban immigrants who from South America risk crossing the intricate Darien Rainforest and crossing Central America to reach the United States, the option of “Nicaraguan transit is much safer and more viable.
Many of them arrived or are still waiting for the opportunity to travel through Central America to arrive at the prelude to the “American dream.” Data from the National Migration Service of Panama indicate that the flow of Cubans through the area grew rapidly since January and at the end of September there were more than 12,000 registered.
The Darien adventure has become increasingly costly and fearsome, with frequent cases of disappearances, murders, rapes of minors and fatal accidents.
“There are Cubans scattered all over the world who are going to try to reach Nicaragua to follow the United States, but it must be remembered that showing up at the border is not a guarantee that the immigration authorities will accept your entry,” Allen said. “Even entry is not a guarantee that you will be able to win the asylum case.”
Allen warned that in the coming days there could be important decisions of the Biden administration on immigration matters that could affect Cuban travelers.
In essence, it is about the reinstatement of the Migrant Protection Program (PPM), known as “Remain in Mexico”, a measure that would give a radical turn to the policy of relative acceptance of Cuban immigrants at points on the southern border.
A DHS source confirmed this Wednesday to CiberCuba that the administration plans to reactivate the PPM in the next few days, although it declined to offer an exact date.
The PPM, implemented by the Trump administration in 2019, It forces asylum seekers in the United States to wait in Mexico for the appointment for a judicial hearing in their case.
The official, who asked not to be named, said negotiations were advanced and a decision was expected “no later than early December.”
The subject of the PPM was among the migration issues that emerged during the recent Summit of Presidents of North America, held in Washington, in which Biden and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador exchanged on multiple bilateral issues, including their respective policies towards Cuba.
Resuscitation of the PPM occurs after a federal judge in Texas will order to keep the program and reverse Biden’s determination to eliminate him. After its suspension, Some 8,000 Cubans were able to legally enter the United States since last February 19.
After the temporary dismantling of the PPM, the US authorities acted with some permissiveness towards Cuban asylum seekers at the border.
Thousands of immigrants were processed by DHS / CBP officers and received a supervised release permit, identified as I-220A, which forces them to win their asylum cases in court to receive permanent residence.
Nevertheless, the fate of those registrants with the I-220A could change due to the outcome of an ongoing federal lawsuit, presented by a team of Miami attorneys. The legal action was claiming that DHS and its Citizenship and Immigration Office (USCIS) consider that the I-220A be officially accepted as an admission document to process permanent residence under the Cuban Adjustment Law (CAA).
A decision on the case should be produced by the summer of 2022 and would have an impact at the national level.
Whatever the exit from the avalanche of Cuban immigrants to the United States, Nicaragua’s decision poses a new strategic challenge for the Biden administration.
This Wednesday, a State Department official recognized that each country has the right to determine the requirements for international travelers to enter its territory, and said that it was up to the Nicaraguan government to explain the reasons why it decided to eliminate the visa requirement for travelers. Cuban citizens.
However, in the statement sent to CiberCuba, The official said that “throughout the region we will continue to focus on governance issues as we work to address the root causes of migration.”
“We know that to stop migration it is necessary to generate economic opportunities and improve the security of citizens, and these improvements require democratic governments that defend the rule of law and fight corruption,” said the official.