Mexico deports 91 Cubans after US policy repealed

Mexico City, Jan 21 (IANS) As many as 91 Cuban migrants were repatriated by Mexican authorities after the US ended its “wet foot, dry foot” policy that allowed Cubans to become permanent resident of the US a year after entering the country.

The 71 men and 20 women, who were sent to Havana on Friday morning, were found in an illegal status in Mexico, the USA Today cited the National Immigration Institute as saying on Friday.

It was the first deportation by the country since a repeal of the “wet foot, dry foot” policy, which was implemented in 1995 and allowed Cubans touching US soil to claim permanent residency in the country.

According to the policy, any Cubans caught at sea between their country and the US were sent back.

The law was eliminated earlier this month by then President Barack Obama as part of the normalisation of diplomatic ties between Havana and Washington.

According to the USA Today, the Cuban government had accepted the return of the migrants.

Earlier, the Mexican government would give Cubans arriving on its southern border a 20-day transit visa to reach the US border. But the 91 migrants held at a detention centre in Tapachula were instead repatriated to their homeland.

Cuba’s willingness to accept the migrants is another sign of the normalising of immigration rules between Cuba, the US and other Latin American countries, said William LeoGrande from American University.

The co-author of ‘Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana’ also said: “The problem is hundreds, if not thousands, of Cubans were stranded somewhere in Southern and Central America when Obama changed the policy.”

Last year, Colombia adopted emergency measures against illegal migration, including plans to deport thousands of migrants and reinforce its borders, in response to the flood of Cubans illegally crossing its borders.

Cuban officials have long denounced the policy, saying it incentivises people to leave the island nation.

The new policy forces Cubans to apply for visas in their home country, like other hopeful migrants, or face deportation if they enter illegally. About 20,000 US visas are awarded in Cuba each year.

Overall, 56,406 Cubans entered the US via ports of entry in fiscal year 2016, more than double the number who arrived in 2014.

–IANS

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