While Cubans have a practically guaranteed route to the "American dream," their continental siblings must scramble through deserts and jungles to avoid the border patrol and vigilante groups seeking to impede their arrival in U.S. territory.
The recent meeting in El Salvador of Central American foreign ministers and representatives from Cuba, Mexico, Ecuador and Colombia, evidenced the desire of regional leaders to find a solution to the complex situation developing in Costa Rica, but also to call attention to the broader problem of migration in the region, one of the continent's poorest, hit hard by drug trafficking and violence.
A study conducted by the United Nations Refugee Agency (Acnur) warned, this past October, of an eminent migratory crisis in Central America.
During the presentation of a new report on women, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, stated, "The violence perpetuated by transnational organized criminal groups in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and part of Mexico has become widespread."
Although the study focused primarily on women, Guterres reported on the general situation as well, noting that between 2008 and 2014 the number of migrants to the U.S. from the Central American Northern Triangle (Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala) had grown five times over, while requests for refuge in Mexico and other countries multiplied by 13.
The study found that some 200,000 Central Americans a year are attempting to cross the Mexican border, to travel to the United States.
The Human Rights Commission in Honduras reports that, between 2009 and 2014, some 77,243 underage migrants entered the U.S. without authorization - 27,579 from Guatemala; 25,985 from Honduras; and 23,679 from El Salvador.
During their journey, these youth must face the dangers posed by organized crime, extortionists, physical injury, robberies, murders, accidents and, if they arrive, a strictly enforced U.S. migratory policy, which in the majority of cases means they will be deported.
SPECIAL TREATMENT FOR CUBANS
Added to this complex situation over the last few years, is the increasing number of Cubans, who leave their country legally, and arrive in another country of the region, to join the irregular movement of migrants through Central America toward the United States, dominated by coyotes and organized criminal bands trafficking in persons.
The reality they face during their journey is unique.
Since 1995, the U.S. government has implemented the "wet foot-dry foot" policy, which allows all Cubans who reach U.S. territory to stay and obtain legal residency, while those intercepted at sea are returned to their country. Taking a land route means that Cubans can need only reach the U.S. border, present themselves to immigration authorities, show evidence that they are Cuban, and automatically be admitted.
The U.S. Parole Program for Medical Professionals, launched during the George W. Bush administration, goes farther, encouraging Cuban doctors and nurses to desert their medical missions in other countries.
Both policies, which the U.S. President has the authority to change, have as their foundation the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act, which has been interpreted to allow the granting of residency to all Cuban citizens who request it.
This Cold War era law is meant to destabilize Cuba and rob the nation of valuable human resources.
The countries involved in the Costa Rican border crisis continue to work on an immediate response to the problem, but insist that a comprehensive solution is required, if a repetition is to be avoided.
Likewise, representatives of Central American countries at the meeting insisted that any analysis from the humanitarian point of view could not exclude their citizens, who are also risking their lives in increasing numbers to reach U.S. territory, in hopes of better economic prospects. / Gabriela Avila Gomez - Granma.