From Ecuador, the Cubans journey through Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala.
For nearly a week, almost 2,000 Cubans have been stranded along the Costa Rica-Nicaragua frontier after the government in Managua balked at their sheer numbers and denied them passage. As an estimated 1,600 frustrated Cubans broke through the border gate on their way north, they were repelled by riot police, tear gas and the national army.
The majority of Cuban migrants passing through Costa Rica on their way to the U.S. have a Cuban passport but not a Costa Rican visa. The face-off between Cuban migrants and the Nicaraguan military at the Peñas Blancas border crossing has become a dramatic backdrop for an exodus of Cubans from the island. Panama refused to accept the migrants.
For decades, Cubans took a boat or raft to reach Florida but a recent crackdown by the Coast Guard and a thaw in relations USA-Cuba has thousands of Cubans making this long and arduous journey. Cubans are protected by the “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy. Fears about a possible tightening of U.S. immigration policy may be motivating some to leave Cuba this year, and contributing to this latest wave but the spike in outflow actually started before the U.S. and Cuba announced a rapprochement in December 2014.
According to the U.S. Border Patrol, the largest spike in the Cuban population was seen in the border town of Laredo, Texas. There were 15,612 Cubans who requested asylum there in 2014, and 28,371 of Cubans who have requested it this year, the Border Patrol said. That is an 80 percent jump in one year.
Mexico’s National Migration Institute (INM) says that in the first 10 months of 2015, a little more than 9,300 Cubans illegally entered Mexico. Mexico is issuing safe passages to the majority of the Cuban migrants.
Earlier this month, Cuban President Raúl Castro visited Mexico and the topic of migration was discussed. Among the accords announced was a memorandum of understanding to "guarantee the legal, orderly and safe flow of migration" between the two countries, and to "prevent and combat human trafficking" and related crimes.