Costa Rica Roadblocks Cuban Immigration

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As Cuban migrants continue to leave their native country, many traveling to South America as their first leg of their journey into Central America and then to Mexico and then eventually reaching the United States, officials with the Costa Rican government have called for a meeting with officials in the relevant countries in order to find a cohesive regional strategy in dealing with the next chapter of the Cuban migration crisis. The urgent meeting involves officials from Cuba, Mexico, Central America, Colombia, Ecuador and the United States.

Costa Rica has been hit particularly hard with Cuban immigrants since the island nation’s travel policies for citizens loosened in 2013. The new rules that eased strict exit visa requirements allowed Cubans to travel more freely and provided a “new way out for those who want to abandon the island,” according to a Miami Herald story. Just since November 2015 to March of this year, nearly 8,000 Cuban migrants were detained or stranded in Costa Rica.

“I want to make absolutely clear, to all the (Cuban) migrants who are coming and those already in Panama, that Costa Rica cannot and will not receive them,” Foreign Minister Manuel González told one publication, reported by the Miami Herald.. The country “will make use of all domestic and international measures at its disposal to address this situation, if we face something similar to what we faced from November to March.”

That González fears an additional onslaught of migrants isn’t without cause. Since relations between the U.S. and Cuba have begun to thaw with the restoration of diplomatic ties between the two countries, the favorable immigration policies enjoyed by nationals of the island nation could be threatened, causing nationals to operate with a heightened sense of urgency in leaving the communist country. Adding fuel to the fire, warming U.S. / Cuba relations means lawmakers might be willing to amend the Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA), which gives Cuban nationals automatic legal status if they make it to U.S. land. It’s commonly called the wet foot / dry foot policy.

And it’s CAA that acts as a particular sticking point to González. The waves of undocumented Cuban migrants “will continue as long as the U.S. law that favors Cuban migration.” He said the region has profound discomfort with the CAA policy.

Cuban migration “should be part of the bilateral relations between Cuba and the United States, but the reality is that the countries from Ecuador to Mexico, we are the ones caught in the middle and we are the ones suffering the consequences of laws that incite that migration,” the minister said.

In 2008, the country of Ecuador lifted its visa requirement for Cubans, which contributed to the increase of of Cuban migrants moving through Central America. In December of last year, the country reimposed its visa requirement in an effort to curtail the flow of migrants.

In the United States, more than 27,000 Cubans have entered the country from the Mexican border from Oct. 1, 2014 through Aug. 31, 2015. In the same period, more than 9,000 Cuban immigrants arrived in the U.S. without visas through the Miami International Airport.

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