Transfer of U.S.-Bound Cubans: A Failed Operation?

By Kausha Luna on March 16, 2016

As Costa Rica and Panama conclude the transfer of U.S.-bound Cubans to Mexico, it is worth asking: Was this plan a success or a failure?

After Nicaragua closed its border to the islanders last November, approximately 8,000 Cuban illegal aliens were stranded in Costa Rica and could not continue their journey through Central America to the United States. As a result, Costa Rica deemed itself responsible to protect the migrant's human rights and provide a "safe" and "legal" alternative route. Panama took on the same role after Costa Rica closed its own southern border, stranding another 1,300 Cuban migrants. Consequently, the Cuban migrants in Costa Rica were given the option to pay to be flown to El Salvador and bused to southern Mexico, or pay more for a direct flight to northern Mexico. Those in Panama were given the option to pay for a direct flight to northern Mexico.

Ultimately 7,802 Cuban migrants in Costa Rica and 1,301 in Panama were eligible to be transferred to Mexico. This means a total of 9,103 Cubans qualified to be dropped off at the United States' doorstep, where they would cross the border and receive automatic legal residency under the terms of the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966. According to Mexico's National Institute for Migration, as of last Friday, Mexico had received only 5,604 Cubans from the Central American countries. So, where are the rest? The Costa Rican government assumes that the islanders that did not participate in the official operation, but were eligible, chose to hire "coyotes" to bring them to the United States. Costa Rica's Director of Migration stated that Mexico so far has received 2,400 of these Cubans. So, despite having a "legitimate" channel by which to reach the U.S., many still chose to place their lives at risk and migrated illegally.

Given that the stated aim of this plan was to prevent Cuban migrants from taking the dangerous journey northward, this operation was arguably a failure.

Too often the argument is made that the solution to illegal immigration is to simply expand legal immigration. However, here is an example where migrants were given an opportunity to migrate legally, yet many still chose not to do so. Increased legal immigration, then, isn’t necessarily the solution to curbing illegal immigration; enforcement of immigration law is.

Topics: Cuba