Hope Reborn for Cubans at Southern U.S. Border

Cuban migrants in Ciudad Juarez, after finally deciding to stay and work in Mexico. (EFE/Capture)

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14ymedio, Lorey Saman, Mexico, 12 February 2021 — The announcement by Joe Biden’s administration to reopen the cases of asylum seekers who were sent back to Mexico, as of Feb. 19, has renewed hope for many Cubans who remain at the southern U.S. border in the expectation of being able to access an immigration court.

“In almost two years, it’s the only positive news we’ve had,” Luis Hechavarría, who is stuck in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, tells 14ymedio. “In the Trump era all the news was negative; all the executive orders that came out were to make the process difficult for us and to leave us here in Mexico, but now a new path is opening up for us.”

Hechavarría does not stop harboring some doubts and recalls that there is a lot of desperation among Cubans since last January. “They have wanted to force their way to U.S. soil and that’s no good. Violating the national security of a country like the United States is a serious crime and I don’t want to add federal charges against myself.”

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Thursday that it will reopen asylum cases as part of a program “to restore the safe and orderly processing” of immigrants who remain at the southern border under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) known as Permanezca en México, established through an agreement between Donald Trump and his Mexican counterpart, Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

The DHS estimates that some 25,000 people have active cases, as is the case with Hechavarría, who has only been able to attend court once. “I have known people who have had to attend up to four times, it is unfortunate and very stressful this situation.”

“Many of these people prefer not to show up at the border again so as not to be deported,” he says. Many like him cannot afford legal counsel, nor do they have sufficient knowledge to defend their cases. Hiring an immigration lawyer, he says, costs between $6,000 and $8,000 and “that service does not guarantee you a favorable resolution.”

Since the pandemic arrived in the United States, the courts have suspended their hearings on several occasions. “They haven’t worked for months and the new administration suspended them altogether.”

Faced with this panorama and the uncertainty of being deported to the Island, some Cubans along the border have decided not to appear before an immigration judge and have opted to apply for residency in Mexico, says the man, who is originally from Holguín (Cuba).

The violence and social insecurity on the Mexican side keeps Hechavarría on alert because of the large number of murders, but he admits that the people have been very welcoming to the Cubans. “We behave well and just work. If we were misbehaving there would be more deaths, but since I’ve been here I’ve only heard of two murders in our community.”

Hechavarria, who has been working in a restaurant for a year and a half, left Cuba for Guyana in 2018. “I have a daughter and I saw myself at 27 years old and with nothing in my hands, with no future to give her. In me, the pain of that last hug and that last kiss always remains,” he says. “But well, you know, one must be made of stone.”

Translated by: Hombre de Paz


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