Obama ‘screwed’ us, angry Cuban migrants say
BY THE MANILA TIMES ON JANUARY 13, 2017
PANAMA CITY: “Obama has screwed all Cubans,” Yadiel Cruz, a Cuban in
Panama bitterly told Agence France-Presse on Thursday upon learning the
US president has suddenly made it tougher for migrants like him to get
The 33-year-old summed up what many compatriots were feeling as they
digested the news in a Catholic shelter in Panama’s capital, a waypoint
on their overland trek to the United States.
But, he declared, “for me, I’m not going back.”
Around him, dozens of other Cubans expressed sadness or anger.
Much of the fury was directed personally at US President Barack Obama
for announcing that he has scrapped, with immediate effect, a 1995
policy that had given near-automatic entry to the US to Cubans who set
foot on American soil, regardless of their visa status.
Now, like those who attempted to cross by water, they could face
deportation back to Cuba unless they convince US officials they were
afraid of being persecuted or had valid humanitarian reasons to be let in.
The move, made just days before Obama leaves office and hands the reins
over to Donald Trump, known for his anti-immigration stance, rattled
nerves, sparked frustration and evoked tears here.
Obama has ‘hurt us’
“We feel sadness because we are all coming with a dream that comes from
pain, hunger and a lot of work to get this far,” said Lorena Pena, a
woman four months pregnant who left Cuba with her husband and
Obama, she said, “screwed up, because what he’s done is hurt us—so he
really isn’t as good as everyone says.”
Ulises Ferrer, a carpenter from Havana, said: “We don’t know what we’re
going to do now. But what we’re certain of is that we’re not going back
to Cuba unless we’re dead.”
The shelter they were in, a simple set-up run by the Caritas charity and
featuring just one bathroom, is in the Ancon neighborhood of Panama City.
It was established months ago to accommodate some of the stream of Cuban
migrants who had been passing through Central America on their way to
Mexico and then to the United States.
The “Wet foot, Dry foot” policy Obama scrapped had meant that many of
them felt they were on their way to a new life in America, once they
reached the border.
Their destination hasn’t changed. But now the reception and easy access
they had hoped for is less likely.
If they are accepted into the United States, though, a 1966 law, the
Cuban Adjustment Act, is still valid and offers them a fast-track to
residency and legal employment.
The Cubans in Panama were on an overland route that has already been
used by tens of thousands of others.
The number of migrants from their Communist-ruled island spiked in 2015
and 2016, after Washington and Havana agreed to a thaw in their long
Many of those fleeing feared exactly what came to pass Thursday: that
the rapprochement would see the door close on Cuban migrants being given
automatic US entry and residency.
The wave of Cubans, along with a decision by Nicaragua to close its
border to them, created a backlog in Panama and Costa Rica that prompted
both countries last year to try to shut out arriving Cubans.
Waiting for Trump
But while numbers have dropped, the flow hasn’t ceased. Many Cubans
coming up from South America now pass through the Darien Gap—an
inhospitable, swampy, snake-infested stretch of jungle dividing Panama
“We are thousands of Cubans who have crossed through the middle of the
jungle, rivers and dangers,” said Yanisel Wilson, a 20-year-old who
crossed through the Darien gap two days earlier.
Getting to even that point has meant running a gauntlet of thieving
police officers, gangs and money-sucking people-smugglers along the way.
“I’m going to wait a few days to watch the news and see what gets
decided. Here we will wait for Donald Trump to take over and see if he
will help us,” Wilson said.
The ordeals the Cuban migrants have gone through speak to their
unwavering determination to reach America, regardless of Obama’s policy
“Where can we go?” asked one Cuban, Julio Hernandez. “We can’t go back,
nor go on. It’s like we’re in a stranded boat and don’t know what to
Source: Obama ‘screwed’ us, angry Cuban migrants say – The Manila Times