PANAMA CITY – Panamanian Vice President and Foreign Minister Isabel de Saint Malo said on Wednesday that the United States still has not responded to the request made more than a month ago by nine Latin American governments to review its immigration policy vis-a-vis Cuba and thus try to deal with the migrant crisis.
The request was expressed in a letter sent on Aug. 29 to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and signed by the foreign ministers of Colombia, Maria Angela Holguin; Costa Rica, Manuel Gonzalez; Ecuador, Guillaume Long; El Salvador, Hugo Martinez; Guatemala, Carlos Raul Morales; Mexico, Claudia Ruiz; Nicaragua, Samuel Santos; Panama, Isabel de Saint Malo; and Peru, Ricardo Luna.
In the letter, the foreign ministers ask Kerry “to analyze and review” the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act, which provides Cuban citizens with numerous benefits in seeking U.S. residents.
The law, along with the so-called “wet foot, dry foot” policy, is “a stimulus to the unorganized, irregular and unsafe flow of Cuban citizens,” the letter states.
De Saint Malo did not say what the foreign ministers’ next step would be if they do not receive a U.S. reply or whether they expect Washington to make changes in its immigration policy.
The movement of Cubans through Central America and through countries like Brazil, Ecuador, Guyana and Colombia is a phenomenon that has increased in recent years but it has intensified with the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba and has created frictions among the countries of the region.
The Nicaraguan government’s decision to close its border late last year resulted in about 8,000 migrants, most of them Cubans, to become stranded in Costa Rica and Panama, and both those nations had to reach an agreement with Mexico on a special operation to transfer them to various Mexican cities on direct flights.
But the migrant flow did not stop and both countries decided to close their own borders and prevent the passage of illegal immigrants, with Costa Rica taking the step first in December 2015 and Panama following suit on May 9, 2016.