180 Cuban migrants reach the US
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180 Cuban migrants reach the US

The first 180 Cubans out of a group of nearly 8,000 migrants are now on U.S. soil in the city of Laredo, Texas.

The group was transferred from Costa Rica by land and air after being stranded for months in Central America as a result of Nicaragua enforcing a border closure.

This is the first phase of a pilot plan that seeks to solve the immigration crisis in which 7,802 Cubans were stranded in Costa Rica.

Cuban Alejandro Ruiz, 49-years-old, has lived some 25 years in the U.S. and founded the group Cubans in Freedom two years ago to guide and help his fellow immigrants.

With the words “Welcome to freedom,” Ruiz received some of the recent arrivals in Laredo on Thursday and Friday.

“I’m Cuban and I want political asylum,” he commented in relation to the refugee process that the migrants must go through at the U.S. border.

“I’m happy, it’s a dream come true, it is wonderful to be free, to express oneself and to do whatever… It is the freedom that all Cubans are looking for,”  Priede Orlando Garcia, 32, one of the immigrants, told EFE.

“They come and the first thing they want is a bath,” he added, excited to be able to receive the first refugees.


Many of the Cubans are expected to make their way to Miami.

The city government and the school authorities of Miami-Dade have urged the U.S. federal government to help with resources to aid the new arrivals, expected to reach the south of Florida in coming weeks.

Alberto Carvalho, Superintendent of Public Schools in Miami-Dade County, said that since last July the school district has received about 4,000 Cuban children and urged the federal government to support “their education”.

The school district has “a moral and legal responsibility” to receive these immigrant children, said Carvalho.

Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado has also spoken out, warning that there are no funds available to house Cuban refugees.

New arrivals

The majority of migrants were transported by air from Costa Rica to El Salvador, prior to taking buses to pass through Guatemala and Mexico, BBC Mundo reports.

Costa Rican Foreign Minister, Manuel Gonzalez, announced that the idea is that two trips are made daily, but admitted that there may be changes to that schedule.

This plan seeks to resolve the crisis that emerged on 15 November last year, when Nicaragua prohibited entry through its territory to Cuban migrants, citing risks to their security and sovereignty.

Last fiscal year, between 1 October 2014 and 30 September 2015, more than 43,000 Cubans arrived in the U.S., representing an increase of over 77 percent from the previous period, according to the Office of Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

These immigrants arrived through border crossings with Mexico, in addition to other entry points, including Miami and Tampa, Florida; Buffalo, New York, and Seattle, Washington.

However, the majority, some 30,966 migrants, entered through the southern border with Mexico, in El Paso and Laredo, Texas, Tucson, Arizona and San Diego, California.

See also:

Deal reached over stranded Cuban migrants

Cuba and the ongoing Central American immigration crisis