Accompanied by immigrant doctors and nurses who are studying to reinsert themselves in the U.S. mainstream labor market, the organization Solidaridad Sin Fronteras (Solidarity Without Borders) celebrated the 10th anniversary of its foundation at its Hialeah headquarters.
The SSF (its acronym in Spanish) executive president, Julio César Alfonso, said the organization keeps its firm commitment to promote improving the community’s healthcare and the professional development of thousands of doctors from Cuba and other Latin American countries who migrated to the United States and currently work in jobs not related to the healthcare field.
“We have worked very hard all these years and we continue doing so,” Alfonso said at the Aug. 22 event. “Numerous doctors and nurses from various countries arrived here and started working in restaurants, factories or gas stations, but we have gradually helped them to get their licenses validated and join the medical field.”
Created in August 2004, SSF was key to the U.S. State Department’s approval, two years later, of the Cuban Medical Professional Parole, a special authorization to enter the United States granted to health professionals of Cuban origin who were in third countries on the so-called “internationalist missions” launched by the Cuban regime.
Maikel Benítez, a 32-year-old Cuban doctor, expressed his gratitude to SSF for helping him come to Miami in 2010 after defecting a year before from a medical mission in Bolivia. Benítez escaped to Peru, but was stranded in Lima for months because the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Agency (UNHCR) would not grant him refugee status.
“ Solidaridad Sin Fronteras helped me with the process and I’m very grateful for that,” Benítez said Friday. “I am now working in the healthcare field and on my way to pass the required tests to renew my doctor’s title.”
Alfonso said that in the last eight years more than 7,000 health professionals from Cuba have benefited from the parole after defecting from the missions.
In the ceremony held at the Blanche Morton Neighborhood Center, at 300 E. First Ave. in Hialeah, Alfonso also highlighted that the organization has developed programs for health professionals, not only from Cuba but also from various other countries, to get their licenses validated.
That is the case of María Alejandra Mogollón, a Venezuelan doctor who migrated to Miami five months ago and who is now preparing to get her medical license validated.
“I left [Venezuela] because of insecurity and a mediocre medical system,” said Mogollón, who attended the ceremony. “I’m now receiving excellent guidelines from Solidaridad Sin Fronteras to move forward.”
Marcos Abreu, a nurse who was also at the event, said the guidance SSF gave him in 2008 was decisive to work again as a nurse.
“I arrived in Miami as a political refugee and started to work at the bakery of a hotel in Fort Lauderdale,” Abreu said. “One day I saw an interview of Julio César Alfonso on television and learned of the help they offered. ... My life turned around completely. I had worked in the medical field in Cuba for 28 years, but I had to leave, and here, thanks to Solidaridad Sin Fronteras, I was able to get a new start.”
Alfonso also highlighted SSF’s assistance in emergency situations. The organization sent doctors to give medical attention to victims of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and the 2007 Hurricane Felix in Nicaragua, among other disasters.
“In these emergencies the great professional value of our doctors has been proven,” Alfonso said.