Cuban migrants stranded in Mexico border city may be granted political asylum

Cuban migrant Irina Ricardo Martinas, 31, takes a break with her six-month-old daughter, Lia Diaz, and son Ali Ernesto Diaz,8 on Jan. 15, 2017, following the end of wet foot, dry foot policy.
Cuban migrant Irina Ricardo Martinas, 31, takes a break with her six-month-old daughter, Lia Diaz, and son Ali Ernesto Diaz,8 on Jan. 15, 2017, following the end of wet foot, dry foot policy. Franco Ordonez

Mexico will allow U.S.-bound Cuban migrants who got stranded in the border city of Nuevo Laredo following the end of the “wet foot, dry foot” policy to apply for political asylum and legalize their status in the nation, the mayor of that city said earlier this week.

“We had a meeting where there were people from immigration... representatives from the federal government, the state,” Mayor Enrique Rivas Cuéllar told reporters. “I understand that the [Cuban migrants] are going to submit requests for political asylum and... be able to process their legal stay here in the country.”

Cubans stand across the street from the bridge connecting Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, to Laredo, Texas, pondering their next move as they hold out hope to find a way to the United States. President Obama announced Thursday the end of the long-standing “

The mayor — whose city is across the border from Laredo, Texas — said the Cuban migrants could remain in other areas of the country to await the result of their asylum requests. The director of the Tamaulipeco Institute for Migrants, José Martín Carmona, offered to provide help for Cubans who wanted move from the border city to other Mexican states, reported the newspaper El Mañana in Nuevo Laredo.

According to the Milenio newspaper, the measure would benefit more than 500 Cubans who are stranded in Nuevo Laredo But a local television station, citing a recent census, reported that some 1,300 Cubans arrived in that city after the Jan. 12 end to “wet foot, dry foot” and that only 700 had registered with the National Migration Institute, known by the Spanish acronymn INM.

An INM official contacted by el Nuevo Herald offered no clarifications about the number of Cubans who could obtain political asylum.

The immigration policy eliminated by former President Barack Obama allowed entry to Cubans who arrived on U.S. soil, even without visas. Thousands journeyed by land across Central America to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

Cubans may still seek political asylum in the United States but are now detained upon arrival while their request is processed. So many have preferred to wait to see if the U.S. government implements new measures or whether they can legalize their status in Mexico. The first has not happened and there is no indication that the Trump administration, which has taken a tough stance against illegal immigration, will consider doing so in the future. The second has been complicated by a deportation agreement Mexico signed in May with Cuba.

Previously, the Cuban government was slow to recognize the nationality of citizens detained Mexico, a requirement for deportation to occur. As a result, many Cuban migrants sought transit permits that would allow them to legally travel across Mexico to reach the United States. But since the change in U.S. immigration policy, Cuba has been quicker to recognize nationality and deportations from Mexico have increased.

In mid-March, 49 Cubans were deported and at the end of January another 91, both groups from the souther Mexican state of Chiapas. At the Siglo XXI immigration detention center in Tapachula, about 20 Cubans were released last month amid denunciations of mistreatment and irregularities by the Mexican authorities.

McClatchy correspondent Franco Ordoñez talks to some of the Cubans who were en route to the United States and are now stuck at the border in Mexico, following an abrupt end to immigration policy for Cubans known as "wet foot, dry foot."

Follow Nora Gámez Torres on Twitter: @ngameztorres