Amid the Cuban migrant standoff in Costa Rica, Mexico's migration policy towards Cubans headed for the United States should be of even greater concern to the United States.
Approximately 5,000 U.S.-bound Cubans are stranded in Costa Rica, after Nicaragua closed its border to them. Ever since, Costa Rica has been hard at work trying to create a "humanitarian corridor" across Central America, which would allow Cubans to freely head north to the U.S. border (where they will receive automatic legal status under the "wet foot/dry foot" policy). Costa Rica has also suggested flying the islanders to Guatemala or Belize, from which they could enter Mexico and make their way north to the United States.
At this point Costa Rica has not been able to implement either plan. However, if the Cuban illegal aliens were to find their way to Mexico, it appears they would be in the clear. As La Jornada (a leading Mexican newspaper) reports "Mexico's migratory policy supports Cubans seeking to reach the United States."
The paper reports that rate of repatriation of Cuban citizens detained and turned over to Mexico's National Migration Institute (INM) is minimal; only 3.7 percent of Cubans apprehended in Mexico are deported, compared with 88.7 percent of Central Americans. The majority of Cuban illegal aliens taken before the INM benefit from a "safe passage" permit which grants the Cuban nationals 30 days to decide whether they want to leave the country or to start their "migratory regularization process." Or as the Undersecretary of Population, Migration and Religious Affairs of the Ministry of the Interior, Humberto Roque Villanueva, explains it, "safe passage" permits allow Cubans to return to their country or continue northward.
The process which Cuban illegal aliens in Mexico undergo is as follows: First the appropriate embassies are consulted to verify the nationality of the foreigners presented before the INM; the law gives a 60-day period for this information to be obtained. Unsurprisingly, there is no swiftness to the Cuban authorities to recognize their potential countrymen. Consequently, "they are told: 'brother, your country didn't answer', therefore you are neither a refugee nor a regularized migrant,'' explains Undersecretary Villanueva. Finally, the Cuban illegal aliens are granted a "safe passage" permit.
According to the INM , as of July 2015, 2,867 "safe passage permits" had been given out to Cuban nationals, during the current year, and 186 were "[provided] an assisted return to their country of origin."
As Villanueva told La Jornada, Cubans have no interest in staying in Mexico, and the same can be said for the Cubans stranded in Costa Rica. Ultimately, the goal of Cuban migrants is to reach the United States. Given the United States' current immigration policies towards Cuba, coupled with Mexico's "safe passage" policy, Cubans (in Costa Rica and elsewhere) have the necessary incentives to continue migrating illegally.