14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 16 March 2017 — A call from Cuba finally let Yandry Perez relax. His aunt had alerted him through an interrupted phone call from the north of Villa Clara, that for two days the whereabouts of his mother and his two younger brothers had been unknown. Organized in absolute secrecy to facilitate their flight, fifty Cubans escaped last weekend in speedboats to Florida, even though they knew they were no longer welcome there.
“For days we have been waiting for news, in complete uncertainty,” says Perez, who two years ago crossed seven international borders to seek refuge under the wet foot/dry foot policy, cancelled in the last days of President Obama’s term.
“When we heard the news that they had caught two boats with Cubans, we breathed a sign of relief,” he adds.
Last Sunday, a 40-foot speedboat was intercepted by an operations team from the US Customs and Border Protection. It had more than 30 migrants on board
His mother, Marlenes Romero Leon, 47, along with his brothers Yusdiel and Kevin, 20 and 11 respectively, boarded the speedboat as a last option to join the rest of the family that was in the south Florida, in a reunification process that was initiated some years earlier but was frustrated when Romero was denied a visa to travel to the Unites States to reunite with the father of her children.
“On television I was able to see one of my brothers, so I know they are being detained,” says Perez, who only wants to know where his family is so he can hire an attorney to take the case.
“We believe that can ask for political asylum. On more they one occasion they arrested my mother [in Cuba]. They didn’t even let her get to beach so she couldn’t escape Cuba,” he adds.
“My brother is a child, at least they should let us take care of him,” he says.
Last Sunday, a 40-foot speedboat was intercepted by an operations team from US Customs and Border Protection. There were more than 30 migrants on board, five of them ran off into crocodile filled mangrove swamps to escape the authorities but they were caught.
A few hours earlier a small boat with seven Cubans on board was intercepted at Blackpoint Park and Marina, south of Miami-Dade. Another boat with 21 migrants was detained in the vicinity of Cayo Largo.
“We can not give any information about the case or those involved because it corresponds to an open investigation,” an official with the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said.
Authorities are investigating the boat operators who transported the Cubans from the island. If it is proved that they are human traffickers they could face severely punished charges
Authorities are investigating the boat operators who transported the Cubans from the island. If it is proved that they are human traffickers they could face severely punished charges in the United States.
Since the press announced the arrival of the Cuban migrants, Julio Infante has not stopped seeking the whereabouts of his father-in-law, who allegedly traveled on one of those boats.
“I’ve gone to several places but they always tell me that they cannot give out information. We’re desperate because we do not even know if he’s alive,” he says.
The missing man is Wilber Hechavarría, 46, who left Cuba on Monday. The relatives were supposed to call to his daughter, Yoandra, who was waiting for the news.
“I wanted to be with her and leave Cuba. She always wanted to leave the country because people there have to steal to eat,” says Infante.
“My wife came from Guatemala a year ago crossing borders. She arrived pregnant, we already have a family and we wanted her dad to be with us too,” he adds.
Although the migrants knew of the ending of the wet foot/dry foot policy, they ventured to cross the Florida Straits, confident that they would find some way to legalize their situation later in the United States.
For Infante, it’s all the same that the policy that facilitated the entry of Cubans to the United States is over.
“In the end, I would look for some way to legalize or be undocumented, but that will always be better than staying in Cuba,” he says.
“When a rafter or any undocumented Cuban migrant arrives in the United States, he is obliged to appear before the authorities for processing“
Immigration attorney Wilfredo Allen comments that when Cuban rafters arrive in US territory and do not surrender to immigration authorities, not only will they not be eligible for the Cuban Adjustment Act after staying in the country for a year, but they will not be able to obtain legal status even by marrying residents or citizens.
“When a rafter or any undocumented Cuban migrant arrives in the United States, he is obliged to appear before the authorities for processing. The migrant can apply for political asylum if he is persecuted and fears to return to Cuba,” says Allen.
“If your case is credible you have the right to fight for asylum before a judge and, if granted, you could then adjust your situation through the Cuban Adjustment Act.
“If migrants who illegally entered the United States do not present themselves to the authorities, they remain undocumented and it is very difficult for them to legalize their status later. They are subject to immediate deportation,” he adds.