Panama Slams The Door On 4,000 Cuban Immigrants Looking To Go To US

REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas

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JP Carroll National Security & Foreign Affairs Reporter
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After letting almost 4,000 Cubans go to Mexico, likely onward to the U.S., Panama is now shutting the border to Colombia, its largest contributor of Cuban immigrants.

Panamanian thinking behind the border closure is that Cubans will no longer be able to keep using the Colombia-Panama border as part of their path to the U.S. Now the roughly 4,000 Cubans heading to Juarez, Mexico, have to pay their own air fare for the trip.

Thousands of migrants from the communist island nation were stuck in Panama after Costa Rica closed its border to the Cuban migrants. Citizens of the Castro dictatorship are currently taking advantage of a unique asylum law that applies solely to Cubans.

According to the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act, Cuban asylum seekers entering the U.S. to flee political persecution are guaranteed to receive welfare benefits in their first five years in the U.S.

Back in December 2015, Pope Francis expressed support for a resolution to the plight of the stranded migrants. Cubans are rushing to the U.S. in droves as their preferential asylum status may come to an end as Cuba and the U.S. continue to improve relations since normalizing them in December 2014.

Cubans currently travelling from Panama for the next two to three weeks are flying to the Mexican border airport of Juarez. Ciudad Juarez is near the Texas border.

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