Colombia to deport Cuban woman seeking cancer treatment in U.S.

Maydelyn Hernández and her husband, Nelson March.
Maydelyn Hernández and her husband, Nelson March. Courtesy

A Cuban woman thought to be suffering from cancer and trying to make her way to the United States for treatment will be deported to Ecuador — her point of entry into Colombia — amid growing fears in this Andean nation that it could see a Central America-style migratory crisis.

Immigration Director Christian Kruger on Wednesday said Maydelyn Hernández Naya and her husband had been detained in northern Colombia, along the border with Panama, after it was discovered that they had been previously deported and barred from entering this country for five years.

Hernández was part of a group of 120 Cubans who have taken up shelter in a warehouse in the port city of Turbo, hoping to make their way up through Central America and to the United States.

Last month, Panama closed off its border to undocumented migrants as it has struggled to take care of thousands of Cubans who have been stranded there. And Colombian authorities fear that decision could create a backlog here.

Hernández and her husband, Nelson March, had been documenting the plight of the growing number of Cubans in Turbo. Hernández told reporters she was suffering from cancer and had been seeking painkillers when she was detained Monday.

In a statement, Kruger said authorities were providing her with medical attention and guaranteed her safety. But he said his office could not “ignore its mission” and allow foreigners who didn’t have their paperwork in order to remain here.

Hernández, her husband and nine other people will be handed over to Ecuadorean authorities in the “coming hours,” the office said.

Colombia is a key transit point for migrants — particularly Cubans — who are trying to reach the United States by going overland. Many, like Hernández, enter the country through Ecuador or Guyana, which have some of the laxest immigration laws in the region.

Colombia says it has deported 470 people in the past 10 days.