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Cuban Immigrants are Crossing the Texas-Mexico Border by the Thousands

The Laredo border crossing has seen an influx of tens of thousands of Cuban immigrants in the past few years.
Billy Hathorn/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)
The Laredo border crossing has seen an influx of tens of thousands of Cuban immigrants in the past few years.

From Texas Standard:

Cold War animosity has thawed between the United States and Cuba, and President Barack Obama has  planned a March 21 trip to the Havana to further positive ties between the two countries.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott recently  went to Cuba to try and drum up some business, but the move isn't exactly reciprocal. For the past few years, Cubans have been coming to Texas.


NPR correspondent  John Burnett says it’s perhaps in anticipation of the shifting U.S.-Cuba relationship. Miami has been the traditional point of entry for Cuban immigrants, but tens of thousands have been filtering through the Texas-Mexico border at Laredo.

"The pipeline has shifted," Burnett says. "Quite remarkably, the Cubans are streaming across the international bridges from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, into Laredo, Texas.”

In 2014 and 2015, more than 67,000 Cubans crossed the border, with 65 percent coming in through south Texas.

“They're getting tourist visas to Ecuador,” Burnett says. “From there, they go up through Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica. They fly to El Salvador, then Guatemala, then Mexico. Then they fly into Nuevo Laredo and cross the bridge into Laredo."

The migration has gotten a lot of people’s attention along the southern border of Texas, Burnett says, and the Cubans are not entirely welcome. Cuban immigrants are automatically allowed entry into the states upon showing U.S. border authorities their passport, thanks to the  Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966. Cuban immigrants also get food stamps, a work permit, Medicaid enrollment and a path to permanent residency.

Since there has been a warming in relations with Cuba, Burnett says the act is outdated.

"No one known when it's gonna change,” Burnett says. “But still Cubans are streaming into the U.S. over the land bridge, because they feel like the wind is going to shift at some point.

In the meantime, the Democratic Congressman from Laredo, Henry Cuellar, has come out against the mass immigration. He says there’s a double standard and Cuban immigrants – mainly coming for economic reasons – have a relatively easy border crossing.

But there are many Central American immigrants crossing the border, Burnett says. Fleeing criminal street gangs and violence, these immigrants surrender to border control only to be detained indefinitely or given ankle monitors, and then are deported.

"That offends people in South Texas," Burnett says.

Copyright 2020 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.

Rhonda is the newest member of the KUT News team, joining in late 2013 as producer for KUT's new daily news program, The Texas Standard. Rhonda will forever be known as the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the first full-time hire for The Texas Standard?” She’s an Iowa native who got her start in public radio at WFSU in Tallahassee, while getting her Master's Degree in Library Science at Florida State University. Prior to joining KUT and The Texas Standard, Rhonda was a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio.
Hady Karl Mawajdeh