Nicaragua may quickly become pathway to U.S. for Cubans

Cuban migrants in Mexico stuck in immigration limbo

By Hatzel Vela - Cuba Correspondent

HAVANA - Richard Livan's life is in limbo. His voyage to the United States started in his homeland of Cuba and he reached Mexico by way of Panama. Livan is waiting in Tapachula, Mexico. 

"Our journey has been very tough," the 39-year-old father said in Spanish.  

Livan sold his home and left his 15-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter behind in Camagüey, Cuba. 

By phone, he told Local 10 News, hundreds, possibly up to a thousand Cubans are in the same situation waiting for the Mexican immigration authorities to provide them with permission to continue north. 

Livan and a growing number of Cubans continue to use third countries as a way to reach the United States. Recently, the U.S. changed its visa policy for Cubans, which further toughens the chances of Cubans to reach and stay in the U.S.

“The increase has been happening the last few months,” said Willy Allen, an immigration attorney based in Miami. 

On a daily basis, Allen receives communication from all over Latin America and Europe from Cubans who want to know the best way to reach American soil. 

The recent spike he has noticed is drastically different from January 2017 when then President Barack Obama ended the "wet-foot, dry-foot" policy and Cuban migration almost halted completely. 

But since then, Cubans have sought new opportunities to leave the island. 

In October 2018, Panama starting issuing 30-day tourist cards for Cuban entrepreneurs and artisans looking to purchase merchandise to bring back to the island. 

Recently, the Nicaraguan government decided to do the same but lowered the requirements and made it easier to acquire the visa. 

With a valid passport and $30, Cubans can now travel to the Central American country. Both programs are strictly designed so Cubans can go and purchase merchandise they cannot find on the island. 

Allen thinks these types of visas will certainly create an exit valve out of Cuba and a pathway to the U.S.-Mexico border. 

“I can almost guarantee you that they’re not going to go shopping” Allen told Local 10 News. “The reasons these Cubans are going there is to start walking towards the border.”

That’s what Lívan is doing. 

Anything but returning to Cuba, where he said, "the economic situation is bad."

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