“Recognize yourself in he and she who are not like you and me.” ― Carlos Fuentes
The scene at the Costa Rica/Nicaragua border this past weekend is reminiscent of a Syrian refugee camp, but on a much smaller scale with about 2,000 Cuban refugees who are walking to the U.S. hoping for permanent residency.
“Walking?” you ask. Incredibly so. According to many of the articles below, the Cuban refugees have changed the flow of migration from a short dangerous raft ride… “wet feet passage” to a long arduous 5,000 mile journey starting in the Andes Mountains in Quito, Ecuador…”dry feet passage”. Why Ecuador? The reason is that Ecuador and Guyana are the only two countries in mainland Latin America that allow Cubans to enter without a visa.
The long passage to the United States is a result of the “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy that puts Cubans who reach U.S. soil on a fast track to permanent residency. The U.S. government initiated the policy in 1995 as an amendment to the1966 Cuban Adjustment Act that Congress passed when Cold War tensions ran high between the U.S. and the island nation.
Under the amendment, when a Cuban migrant is apprehended in the water between the two countries, he is considered to have “wet feet” and is sent back home. A Cuban who makes it to the U.S. shore, however, can claim “dry feet” and qualify for legal permanent resident status and U.S. citizenship.
The articles below clearly explain why many Cubans are leaving Cuba at a time when the U.S. has opened new relationships with Cuba. It should be a hopeful time for many Cubans, right? But, many disgruntled and pessimistic Cubans are increasingly nervous with no prospects of good jobs, and worried that President Obama may revoke the Cuban Adjustment Act.
The Cuban refugees were given a 7 day temporary visa to leave Costa Rica and enter Nicaragua. On Sunday, they arrived at the border, peacefully left Costa Rica and were denied entrance into Nicaragua because Nicaraguans never signed off on the plan. Some reports say that the Cuban refugees stormed through the border and were met by heavily armed Nicaraguan soldiers and anti-riot police that sprayed them with tear gas and shot at them with rubber bullets. Several people were injured including a 1 year-old girl.
We received this message from the U.S. Embassy in Managua:
SECURITY MESSAGE for U.S. Citizens
Border Crossing Closures and Delays
Embassy Managua informs U.S. citizens living and traveling in Nicaragua of media reports of temporary border crossing closures and delays between Nicaragua and Costa Rica, as well as increased police and military presence along the border.
U.S. citizens planning to enter or depart Nicaragua over a land border should closely monitor local media before attempting to travel.
Given the potential for long delays near border crossings, U.S. citizens should exercise caution in the vicinity of large gatherings of people and plan their trips accordingly.
Sunday, the border was closed. Monday, it reopened with long lines and long waits. The Red Cross and National Emergency Commission set up shelters to provide food and shelter in the little town of La Cruz, Costa Rica. However, it is a small shelter and reports are that over 800 Cubans are still at the border crossing sleeping wherever they can find a space on the concrete floors until this problem is resolved.
Fusion reports, “Sandinista spokeswoman and first lady Rosario Murillo released an angry statement Sunday evening blaming Costa Rica of “violating our national sovereignty” and threatening Nicaragua’s security by orchestrating the “forced entry of thousands of irregular emigrants of Cuban nationality.”
Sigh! I am really getting angry at the constant fighting between Nicaragua and Costa Rica. It is always something. Did the Cuban refugees, unbeknownst to them, get caught in the crossfire of another spat between Costa Rica and Nicaragua? Or, could the reason be “Instead, Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government is taking the opportunity to repay the Castro regime for years of generous solidarity by militarizing its border to halt the advance of Cuban emigrants who are considered traitors to the revolution,” as reported by Fusion?
Only time will tell… meanwhile, there are thousands of Cubans slowly making their way to Nicaragua from Ecuador and Guyana. Fusion reports, “A total of 18,397 Cubans have entered the U.S. at the Laredo border crossing in just the first nine months of this year—a 66% spike in traffic from last year, according to official U.S. data obtained by the Pew Research Center. Overall, 27,296 Cubans have entered the U.S. this year, up a whopping 78% from last year.”
All I know for sure is that we do indeed have a humanitarian crisis occurring throughout the world and it disturbs me greatly. I wish we lived in a world without borders and we could Recognize yourself in he and she who are not like you and me.