Looser travel restrictions bring more Cubans to US


The number of Cubans entering the U.S. has doubled since last year, and it is expected to continue to rise. The migrants are driven by hopes for a better life in the U.S., but their journeys are often risky and dangerous. CCTV America’s Ginger Vaughn reported this story from Houston, Texas.

Tens of thousands of Cubans entered the U.S. by land over the past year, many of them taking advantage of looser travel restrictions. Some, like Alberto Barbusano Perez, 31, opted not to apply and wait for refugee status.

“Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to come to America. Given the pressure in Cuba, I was given the opportunity to go to Ecuador,” he said.

In April last year, Barbusano left his family in Havana and flew to Ecuador. Then for the next three months, he traveled over land to the United States.

“I crossed through Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and finally Mexico,” he said.

At the Mexico-U.S. border, Barbusano told authorities that he wanted to apply for permanent resident status under the Cuban Adjustment Act. He was soon issued papers and free to begin a new life in America.

While historically, Cubans have emigrated to cities like Miami, Florida, today many are now crossing over land through Mexico to Texas and settling in cities like Houston, because of the assistance they can get from the state.

The director for Texas Refugee Services, Sarah Kauffman, said that resettlement is offered for up to eight months to people with refugee or asylum status, as well as those who come to the U.S. without documentation such as Barbusano.

“Cubans have financial challenges difficulty and extreme poverty as a result of the political system there. They would tell you that they don’t have opportunities, no matter how high a level of education they can receive in their school system, because they still can’t support their families. They can’t find jobs, and the opportunities don’t exist,” Kauffman said.

“What I appreciates about the U.S. is the possibility of opportunity. The fact that one can accomplish anything that you want to do and that you’re able to do, you’re allowed the opportunity to accomplish without any limitations,” Barbusano said.

Barbusano’s said he hopes to be a carpenter. He now had a valid work permit and driver’s license, and he said in a few months, he will have a social security number and residency status, too.

For more perspective on the situation in Cuba, and how lifting the U.S. trade embargo might affect life on the island, CCTV America interviewed William LeoGrande, a specialist in Latin American politics and a professor at American University in Washington, D.C.