First Cuban Migrants from Costa Rica Reach the U.S.

By Kausha Luna on January 16, 2016

The dozen or so Cuban migrants arrived in Laredo, Texas, Friday, part of the first group of 180 Cubans flown from Costa Rica to El Salvador and bused through Guatemala to Mexico.

This initial transfer of 180 Cuban migrants was a trial run arranged by Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, and the International Organization for Migration – in response to about 8,000 Cubans stranded in Costa Rica after Nicaragua closed its border and refused to let the Cubans pass. (Many other Cubans also enter the U.S. through Mexico; last year more than 43,000 Cubans came here without permission, three-quarters of them by land.)

These migrants left Cuba to take advantage of the Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA) and its "wet foot, dry foot" policy, that gives legal status to any Cuban reaching the U.S. The Obama administration has made it clear that it has no intention of changing its immigration policies towards Cubans, thus maintaining a significant incentive for Cuban migrants to illegally immigrate.

However, the United States does not have to reward illegal Cuban arrivals with the benefit of adjustment, as my colleague Dan Cadman recently explained. CAA benefits are only available to Cubans who have been paroled into the U.S.; if they're kept in detention, the provisions of the CAA do not apply and they can be repatriated if they can't demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution.

Topics: Cuba