By Carmen Garcia
President Obama’s last foreign policy decision this past January aimed to treat all migrants coming into the US to be processed equally. The end of the “Wet Feet, Dry Feet” policy—which was an open door to Cuban migrants—came as a sudden compromise, especially to the Cubans who faltered along the way to the US.
As it is common, Mexico shelters immigrants from Central and South America. Guatemalans, Salvadorans, Argentineans, and now Cubans, amongst others, make up more than 1 million of Mexico’s population. Most want to gain access into the US, but are oftentimes mistaken for Mexicans and returned to Mexico. Our neighboring city of Nuevo Laredo, like the rest of the cities located along the US-Mexico border, are prone to this trend.
One block from Puente de las Americas Bridge—or “Bridge #1,” as locals call it—is located Santo Niño Church, and in front of it, Plaza Juarez. The Plaza is filled with Cuban migrants, which, according to Luis, have to report to Mexican immigration services every morning. “The church has treated us tremendously. We have been fed, and then were put into contact with the Casa para el migrante (The Migrant’s House), who have provided a roof,” comments Luis of the treatment from Nuevo Laredoans.
While they are waiting on a response from either the US or Mexican government agencies, the Cuban immigrants try to find a way to sustain their families. “We paint houses and roofs; we’ve even tried to sell tacos. Anything is better than nothing. We can’t compete on the job market because we don’t have an education,” adds Luis’ friend Felix.
Luis, Felix, and the rest of the Cuban community in Nuevo Laredo stay hopeful on a solution from the Mexican government. “If we could but only receive a work permit here in Mexico, things could get better for us.” Ultimately, they await a response from the US.
Since 2016, the Haitian-African communities in the northern Mexican cities of Tijuana and Mexicali have been facing the same struggle as the Cubans—they are stranded in the middle of home and their destination. Similarly, the Haitians have built neighborhoods where they can reside with each other.
Despite the current tension towards immigrants, those sidelined in Mexico long for an answer. In the meantime, the Central and South American migrants add to the blend of what truly is the Mexican culture.