Category Archives: Immigration

US detains 172 Cuban migrants following end of ‘wet foot, dry foot’ policy

The Miami Herald

At least 172 Cuban nationals who tried to enter the United States following the end to an immigration policy known as “wet foot, dry foot” are now in detention facilities, awaiting for the results of their removal proceedings, federal agencies have confirmed.

Exactly where they are being held was not revealed.

“Since January 14, there has been an increase of 172 Cuban nationals in ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] detention,” an ICE official said.

The official also said that two people had already been “removed” to Cuba but did not clarify whether they are the same two Cuban rafters that a Coast Guard spokeswoman said had been intercepted since the end of wet foot, dry foot.

The fact that only two Cubans have been interdicted by the Coast Guard since the end of the policy demonstrates how effective the change, implemented by former President Barack Obama, has been in stemming the flow of Cuban migrants.

In January 2016, a total of 3,846 Cubans arrived without a visa to the United States. But from Jan. 12-31 of this year, only 426 Cubans were considered “inadmissible” by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents at several ports of entry, according to a CBP spokeswoman.

Most of these “inadmissable” Cubans arrived in Miami (111) or Laredo (279) on the U.S.-Mexico border.

During the same period, 1,400 Cubans were legally admitted, according to figures obtained by el Nuevo Herald.

For many years, Cubans who arrived in the United States without a visa and asked to stay were not afraid of being detained. All that ended on Jan. 12 when, in the spirit of normalizing relations with Cuba, the Obama administration eliminated the controversial wet foot, dry foot policy, which allowed most Cubans who made to U.S. soil to stay.

Those “inadmissible” Cubans who arrived after the change of policy “are either entered into removal proceedings or given the opportunity to withdraw their application” and voluntarily leave the U.S., the CBP spokesperson said.

An ICE source confirmed that there have not been deportations of Cubans from Miami as of yet.

CBP, ICE and Citizenship and Immigration Services declined to say if those 172 Cuban detainees had requested asylum, although a CBP source said that about half of the 426 “inadmissibles” had expressed fear of returning to Cuba and have begun the process of applying for asylum to avoid being removed.

Immigration proceedings for at least one couple detained in Miami and Broward have begun.

The hearing to introduce an asylum petition on behalf of Aquilino Caraballo and Georgina Hernández, 67 and 64, took place on Monday at the Krome detention center where Caraballo is being detained. His wife, Hernández is at Broward detention center, known by the acronym BTC.

They are the parents of a Hialeah resident Geidy Caraballo whom the couple had visited six times but were taken into custody upon arrival at Miami International Airport after apparently telling an immigration officer that they “wanted to stay.”

According to his lawyer, Wilfredo Allen, the couple will face trial on March 10, which in his opinion is quite “fast” for these types of cases. They will continue to be detained while the process evolves, a procedure authorities might follow from now on, he added.

An executive order signed by President Donald Trump established “the detention of aliens apprehended for violations of immigration law pending the outcome of their removal proceedings or their removal from the country.”

What happens in these hearings will be critical for the future of many Cubans who are still stranded in Mexico or other countries and are pondering their limited options, including the request for political asylum in the U.S.

In the meantime, the possibility that Trump restores the wet foot, dry foot policy seems ever more remote, despite the circulation of false news reports making the rounds on social networks. On Thursday in Miami, Rep. Carlos Curbelo R-FL said that the end of the special treatment for Cubans was inevitable.

“We knew that the policy had many shortcomings,” he said. “We didn’t think that the Obama White House would act so unexpectedly, at the last minute, but I think that everyone recognized that the policy was causing a difficult situation here in the United States and in Cuba.”


Authorities rescue 10 Cubans allegedly kidnapped in Mexican border city

Cuban migrants say they prefer to try their luck through Central American than returning to Cuba

The Miami Herald

A group of 10 Cubans who had been kidnapped while traveling from Reynosa to Nuevo Laredo in Mexico were rescued Wednesday, according to a high-ranking official from Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Ernesto Soberón, director of consular affairs at the ministry, known as MINREX, issued a Twitter post Wednesday evening stating that the Cubans were in contact with the Cuban Consulate in Monterrey and that they were in good health.

The Cubans were reportedly kidnapped in Reynosa, across the border from Hidalgo, Texas, last week, after being stranded in Mexico following the end of the so-called “wet foot, dry foot” immigration policy, which allowed entry to Cubans who made it to U.S. soil.

Several initial reports indicated that 11 Cubans had been kidnapped, including a child, but later reports said it was 10.

The kidnapping was allegedly carried out by organized crime gangs, which inspected buses where the migrants traveled. According to a relative of one of the victims who spoke to local Mexican media, the kidnappers were heavily armed.

Details of the rescue were not made public but reportedly involved negotiations. It is not known whether the Cubans or their relatives had to pay ransom or if any arrests were made in the case.

The Cubans were placed under the custody of Mexico’s immigration authorities, who then released them to the care of a nonprofit organization.

Local media reported that Héctor Silva, the director of the Casa del Migrante organization, said that all 10 wanted to return to Cuba because they “were scared.”

But Miami reporter Alejandro Condis, of Mega TV, who interviewed the Cubans, said the group did not want to return to the island and instead made their way to the U.S.-Mexico border to seek asylum. However, as they neared the border crossing, the group was detained by Mexican authorities because the documents allowing them to temporarily stay in Mexico had expired.

Condis reported that the Mexican immigration authorities gave the Cubans the option to go back to Cuba or to remain in Mexico. The group petitioned for a humanitarian visa that would allow them to stay in Mexico.


NewsBusters: Trump ‘Ban’ 57 Times More Coverage than Obama’s Cuba Ban

Breitbart NewsMainstream media networks devoted 57 times more coverage to President Donald Trump’s temporary “ban” on travel from seven terror-prone countries than they did to President Barack Obama’s permanent ban on Cuban refugees to the U.S.

That’s according to a NewsBusters investigation, which also found that “between them, ABC, CBS and NBC only spent 68 seconds during their news coverage the following morning” after Obama ended the “wet foot, dry foot” policy for Cubans.

NewsBusters adds:

Both actions severely limited immigration from certain regions, but CBS This Morning and NBC’s Today hyped the Castro regime “praising” Obama’s policy decision. In contrast, the coverage of Trump’s executive order has been overwhelmingly negative, with NBC’s Today even going so far as to suggest a link between Trump’s immigration ban and a mass shooting at a mosque in Quebec, despite a complete lack of evidence.

But this wasn’t the only instance of the networks ignoring one of President Obama’s bans on refugees. It wasn’t until 2013 that ABC News reported that “State Department stopped processing Iraq refugees for six months in 2011,” after the discovery that two al-Qaeda operatives had used the program to enter the U.S. and move to Bowling Green, Kentucky.
CBS and NBC never followed up on the story, and ABC dropped its coverage after that single day of attention.

Coverage of Obama’s rapprochement and normalization of relations with Cuba has been generally laudatory, ignoring the Cuban regime’s complete failure to make progress on democracy and human rights, while praising the diplomatic commitment of the Obama administration to back down, unilaterally.

Changes to immigration policy will not stem the Cuban exodus, those on the island say

The Miami Herald

When Washington put an end to a preferential immigration policy for Cuban migrants nearly two weeks ago, the official reasoning behind the move was to stem the flow of an increasing exodus and prompt democratic changes on the island.

Many in the exile community considered the new measure a “gift” for the Cuban government.

But looming questions remain: Will Cubans stay in their homeland or continue to flee? And is the Cuban government the real winner with this agreement?

Part of the debate was generated by the way the policy shift came about — announced through a joint statement from both governments and without warning to avoid a migratory crisis, according to Ben Rhodes, Obama’s adviser on Cuba.

Antonio Rodiles, a Cuban government opponent and one of the coordinators of the Forum for Rights and Freedoms, told el Nuevo Herald that the policy revision was “necessary” but criticized the “abrupt” way in which it was carried out. He also took issue with the fact that the announcement was made jointly with the Cuban government, with the release of a “shameful” document in which “the Cuban regime spoke of the defense of human rights and other issues in which it has been the principal violator.”

Rodiles said that the policy “had been distorted” by the Raúl Castro government itself, which constructed a narrative in which the emigres “fled for economic and not political reasons.” Many repeated that statement upon arrival in the United States to avoid conflicts with the government and to be able to return to the island, where many left behind their closest relatives.

These kinds of public declarations, along with high-profile crimes committed by some newly arrived immigrants, elicited negative opinions among the public, including Cuban exiles who arrived in earlier migration waves. Two Cuban American congressmen, Carlos Curbelo and Marco Rubio, even filed a bill to restrict Cuban immigrants’ access to federal benefits and grant them only to those who had left the island for political reasons.

Continue reading Changes to immigration policy will not stem the Cuban exodus, those on the island say

Mexico deports Cubans awaiting travel documents to try to reach the U.S

The Miami Herald

A group of 91 Cubans who were stranded in Mexico following an end to migration policy that would have allowed them entry to the United States was deported to the island Friday, the Mexican authorities announce
“In compliance with the provisions of the Migration Law, 91 Cuban nationals were sent to their country this morning from the airport in Tapachula Chiapas, after Cuban authorities issued a recognition of their nationality,” according to a statement issued by the Mexican National Institute of Migration (INM).

The group included 20 women and 71 men who, according to the INM, were waiting to obtain transit documents to continue their their journey to the U.S. border.

Yadel González Sagre, who had been in Tapachula for 19 days, was among those returned to the island. He said he and others were taken from the Siglo XXI Migrant Station early Friday.

“Suddenly they told us that they were going to deport us and they got us all out of there. It was terrible, they beat us and threatened us. Then they pushed us into buses and from there they took us directly to the airport and they have been sending us in small groups,” González said via text messages.

González said he feared returning to a life he described as “hell” in his native Havana.

“We live in a country without rights,” he said.

In its statement, the INM pointed out that Mexico’s Migration Law provides undocumented foreigners the ability to obtain transit documents that allow them to legally travel through Mexico for up to 20 days so that they can legalize their migration status to leave the country.

In the case of 91 Cubans, the Consulate General of Cuba formally recognized and agreed to take back its citizens, allowing Mexican authorities to carry out deportations, INM said.

Since the Jan. 12 end to U.S. immigration policy known as wet foot, dry foot, hundreds of Cubans have been stranded in Mexico and elsewhere in their attempt to reach the United States.

Official Statement from the Obama Administration

Statement by the President on Cuba Policy Changes

Cabinet Room

12:01 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. Today, the United States of America is changing its relationship with the people of Cuba.

In the most significant changes in our policy in more than fifty years, we will end an outdated approach that, for decades, has failed to advance our interests, and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries. Through these changes, we intend to create more opportunities for the American and Cuban people, and begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas.

There’s a complicated history between the United States and Cuba. I was born in 1961 –- just over two years after Fidel Castro took power in Cuba, and just a few months after the Bay of Pigs invasion, which tried to overthrow his regime. Over the next several decades, the relationship between our countries played out against the backdrop of the Cold War, and America’s steadfast opposition to communism. We are separated by just over 90 miles. But year after year, an ideological and economic barrier hardened between our two countries.

Meanwhile, the Cuban exile community in the United States made enormous contributions to our country –- in politics and business, culture and sports. Like immigrants before, Cubans helped remake America, even as they felt a painful yearning for the land and families they left behind. All of this bound America and Cuba in a unique relationship, at once family and foe.

Continue reading Official Statement from the Obama Administration

BREAKING NEWS – Obama ending the wet foot dry foot policy

USA Today

The Obama administration is ending the 20-year-old “wet foot, dry foot” policy that allows most Cuban migrants who reach U.S. soil to become legal permanent residents after one year.

The decision was confirmed by a congressional staffer who was briefed by the administration but was not authorized to publicly discuss the plan.

In exchange, Cuba has agreed to start accepting Cubans who have been issued a deportation order in the U.S., something they have refused to do for decades.

The decision comes as President Obama tries to cement his historic opening with the communist island and one week before President-elect Donald Trump takes office. Trump has said he would renegotiate the deal with Cuba.

Families of Cuban Migrants Desperate For Answers


CBS Miami

A Coast Guard Cutter remains at sea Monday, where it’s been since Friday with 21 Cuban migrants on board.

Many of the South Floridians who believe their loved ones are on that Coast Guard vessel have turned to the attorneys at the Democracy Movement for help.

They not only want to ensure those on board will not be sent back to Cuba, they also simply want verification that their relatives survived the journey and are with the Coast Guard.

“It’s so sad because you don’t know about him, nobody can tell you anything. And they know what happened with the people,” said Hildanys Rodriguez through tears. She became emotional when talking with CBS4’s Natalia Zea about the possible worst case scenario, involving her cousin Francis Alejo.

She knows he left Cuba on a homemade boat with friends, and prays he is one of the migrants picked up five miles off of Marathon Key Friday but at this point the Coast Guard is not naming names.

“Nobody wants to give information, please I ask if somebody can help,” said Rodriguez.

Compounding Rodriguez’s fear is the knowledge that relatives in South Florida have given the Democracy Movement 38 names of those believed to have left Cuba at the same time. But the Coast Guard found only 21.

Two were found in the water near the American Shoal Lighthouse. Nineteen others made it to the lighthouse itself.

“We’re talking about persons. It’s so really hard. It’s so hard to not know what happened to your family,” said Rodriguez.

Yamilia Carril also hopes her nephew Carlos Barrios was one of the 19 migrants who swam to the federally-owned lighthouse, and are awaiting word from the federal government, whether this counts as U.S. land, under the Wet-Foot, Dry-Foot policy.

“I’m very nervous with my nephew,” she told Zea.

Cuban exile activist Ramon Saul Sanchez says the lighthouse is clearly part of the United States.

“The lighthouse is anchored in the platform of U.S. territory. It is in U.S. waters,” said Sanchez.

Continue reading Families of Cuban Migrants Desperate For Answers

Will Carnival be next? Cubans found hiding in ship carrying filming equipment of Fast and Furious 8


La Prensa

Florida authorities found three Cubans hiding in a cargo ship arriving from Cuba and which was carrying filming equipment used in the shooting of the movie “Fast and Furious 8”.

Spokespersons for Port Everglades in Broward County, South Florida, confirmed to EFE that the Cubans were found inside a cargo ship arriving at the maritime terminal, one of the world’s busiest ports which recorded more than 3.7 million passengers in 2015.

The Cubans, whose identities have not been revealed, were then handed over to the local office of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

The eighth installment of the “Fast and Furious” series, starring Vin Diesel, was shot in Havana a few weeks ago and there are plans to shoot more scenes in New York City.

Cubans who touch land on U.S. territory are favored by the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 and its policy of ‘dry feet/wet feet’ which means they can stay in the country, while those who are intercepted before reaching the coast are deported to the island.

Last fiscal year from Oct. 1, 2014 to Sep. 30, 2015, more than 43,000 Cubans came to the U.S., representing a rise of more than 77 percent compared to the previous period, according to the CBP.

The restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries in July 2015, with the opening of embassies, has raised fears that immigrant benefits to Cubans will be curbed, while immigration experts say the renewed ties have led to a fresh exodus from the Caribbean island to the United States.

Wounded rafters say shooters in Cuba tried to steal boat

Yaser Cabrera Romero, one of the rafters who arrived from Cuba on Saturday
Yaser Cabrera Romero, one of the rafters who arrived from Cuba on Saturday

The Miami Herald

Shortly before sailing from Cuba, 26 Cubans who were about to board a raft were set upon by a group of criminals who opened fire with a gun and wounded seven, including a pregnant woman, all in a failed attempt to steal their makeshift boat, two of the wounded migrants said upon arriving in Miami Sunday afternoon.

“We really don’t know who shot us, but we think it was criminals who wanted to steal the raft,” said Yaser Cabrera Romero, one of the migrants interviewed after arriving at the Doral office of Church World Service, an agency that helps refugees and immigrants resettle in the United States. “We were just arriving in a vehicle that took us to the raft, and while we were still on shore, four people showed up and yelled: ‘Stay where you are. The boat is ours!’ ”

Rather than surrendering, the 26 migrants confronted the criminals, one of whom then pulled out a gun — but the alleged thugs ultimately fled after wounding seven rafters. Though wounded, the rafters decided to continue with their plan. They say they boarded the raft in the area of ​​Matanzas, east of Havana, and sailed at 3 a.m. Saturday. They traveled for nine hours to the outskirts of Key West, where they were intercepted by the Coast Guard from United States.

“We sailed for nine hours, injured and bleeding,” Cabrera Romero said.

The dramatic story told by Cabrera Romero and another rafter, Jorge Luis Escalona, ​​who were transported to Miami from Key West after being released by the hospital, marked the first time that participants in the incident provided a detailed explanation of the initial mystery that surrounded the case.

Six of the rafters whose injuries were considered serious were taken to a hospital near Key West. The wounded seventh rafter was transferred with the other remaining 19 migrants to a Coast Guard cutter likely to be returned to Cuba, unless one or more claim fear of persecution if returned, in which case they would be taken to the naval base at Guantánamo to be processed for resettlement in a third country.

The case sparked widespread interest because seven of the migrants were wounded by gunfire, an unusual occurrence, and because U.S. authorities did not explain the circumstances surrounding the incident. The case raised suspicions about how the seven rafters came to be shot. Among the theories was that the migrants may have wounded themselves to force the Coast Guard to bring them ashore.

When the Coast Guard finds sick rafters, they are brought ashore to receive medical care. This allows the migrants transported ashore to stay in the U.S and apply for permanent residence after more than a year under the Cuban Adjustment Act. Generally, Cuban migrants who are intercepted at sea are returned to Cuba under the wet-foot/dry-foot policy.

But Cabrera Romero and Escalona, ​​the other rafter interviewed in Doral, said the incident was an attempted robbery.

“We confronted them and one drew a gun,” Escalona said. “It was very dark, and we think they were criminals who wanted to steal our raft.”

Escalona, ​​a nephew of his who was not interviewed and Cabrera Romero showed their wounds to journalists.

Escalona had a wound on his side, his nephew on the shoulder and Cabrera Romero in the abdomen. The three said the pregnant woman had been shot in the back and that the injured rafter who was not brought ashore had a bullet in the foot. It is not known where the remaining two rafters were injured. The woman and another rafter were still hospitalized, Cabrera Romero and Escalona said.

Cabrera Romero said doctors told him that his wound was not life-threatening but that the bullet was still inside his body.

“They gave me morphine, but I have still have the bullet inside and it hurts a lot,” Cabrera Romero said. “I’ve had that bullet in me for more than 24 hours.”

The Coast Guard issued a statement on Sunday morning: “The U.S. Coast Guard interdicted 26 Cuban migrants aboard a make-shift raft south of Key West, Florida, Saturday afternoon. Seven of the 26 migrants had gunshot wounds sustained prior to the interdiction. The most critical, six, were medevaced to a local area hospital. The remaining 20 migrants will likely be returned to their country of origin. The U.S. Coast Guard works hard to ensure the safety of migrants on our cutters after an interdiction and strongly discourages attempts to illegally enter the country by taking to the sea. These trips are extremely dangerous and could lead to loss of life.”

According to KeysInfoNet, the six wounded rafters brought ashore were taken to the Lower Keys Medical Center on Stock Island. Coast Guard spokesmen said the Border Patrol was in charge of the six Cubans who were taken to the hospital.

Frank Miller, a Border Patrol spokesman, said four were released to the agency that generally handles their paperwork. He had no information on the other two.

Miller declined to provide more details because the case is part of an “ongoing investigation.”

Normally, Cuban rafters who reach shore and have not been wounded by gunfire are retained by the Border Patrol for a few hours, or at most a day, for background checks and to process their parole documents to remain in the country.

The Coast Guard reported last week that nine Cubans had died at sea during a voyage to South Florida, according to Cuban migrants who were rescued by a cruise ship near Marco Island, off the west coast of Florida. The 18 survivors, who were taken to Cozumel, Mexico, said they had tossed the bodies into the sea, according to the Coast Guard.

Also, in separate incidents last week, 58 Cuban migrants intercepted at sea on several vessels were repatriated.

According to Coast Guard figures, so far this fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, 2,562 Cubans have been intercepted, sighted or have landed in Florida.

In fiscal year 2015, about 4,476 Cuban migrants were intercepted, spotted or arrived by sea, the largest number in more than seven years.

According to the Coast Guard, uncertainty about a possible change in U.S. immigration policy with Cuba has led to a larger number of Cuban immigrants since President Barack Obama in December 2014 ordered the restoration of relations with the island.