U.S.-bound Cuban migrants who are stranded in the Mexican border city of Nuevo Laredo may apply for political asylum and legalize their status in Mexico, the mayor of the city announced this week. The migrants have been stranded in the border city since the end of the “wet foot, dry foot” policy in January.
“We had a meeting where there were people from immigration… representatives from the federal government, the state,” Laredo Mayor Enrique Rivas Cuéllar told the press. “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.”
The mayor said Cuban migrants can stay in other parts of the country while their requests for asylum are processed. José Martín Carmona, the Tamaulipeco Institute for Migrants director, has offered to help Cuban nationals who want to move from Nuevo Laredo to other areas.
The new measure may benefit the hundreds of Cuban migrants who are currently stranded in the border city. Reports by the press differ on the exact number of migrants who are in the city, but a recent count reported that 1,300 migrants have arrived in Nuevo Laredo since the end of “wet foot, dry foot.”
The “wet foot, dry foot” policy was ended by Obama on January 12. It allowed Cubans who crossed the U.S. border to enter the country, even without visas, and apply for residency after one year. The policy was implemented in 1995 by the Clinton administration, and over the past 20 years thousands of Cubans migrants have traveled to the border at Nuevo Laredo to cross into the U.S.
Mexican officials used to allow Cubans making the trip to cross the border without any problem, but since the end of the immigration policy, Cubans seeking asylum in the U.S. are detained on arrival as their request is reviewed. Mexico also signed a deportation agreement with Cuba, and now migrants who get detained are deported back to the island. 49 migrants were reportedly deported last month and another 91 were deported in January.
Many of the migrants were held at the Siglo XXI detention center, which has been plagued with reports of violence, abuse, and mistreatment of detainees. Last month, Cuban detainees in Siglo XXI filed a formal complaint against the National Migration Institute, citing widespread abuse and extortion of their family members in the U.S.
Several news sources have reported protests by detainees in Siglo XII. The detainees declared a hunger strike in February, and some reportedly sewed their lips shut as part of the protest. Officials at the center refused to comment on the alleged mistreatment and referred all queries to the National Migration Institute.
The detainees have been receiving assistance from the National Commission on Human Rights and the Center for Human Rights in Chiapas. The latter has permission from Mexican officials to enter Siglo XXI once week and a spokesperson told news sources that the center plans to investigate the complaints.