U.S. Paying For Cuban Immigrants Stuck In Costa Rica

| by Michael Allen
Girls Costa Rica flagsGirls Costa Rica flags

U.S. taxpayers are paying to feed and shelter about 2,000 Cuban immigrants who are stranded in Costa Rica.

Cubans immigrants get special treatment once they make it to the U.S. per the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, but the Cubans in Costa Rica have not yet made it to U.S. soil.

The Obama administration promised in January to pay $1 million for water, food, temporary shelter, sanitation and hygiene kits to help care for the Cubans in Costa Rica, notes The New York Times. 

Costa Rica sits directly south of Nicaragua, which would not let the Cubans pass through in November 2015. Nicaragua's actions stranded close to 8,000 Cubans in Costa Rica and about 3,000 in Panama, which is directly south of Costa Rica.

In January, five Central American countries and Mexico reached an agreement to fly the Cubans out of Costa Rica to El Salvador, CNN notes. The Cubans then took buses from El Salvador to Mexico, and ultimately made their way to the U.S.

Costa Rica's government has opened shelters in schools, fire stations and other structures to house the Cuban immigrants.

"At one point, it was costing $35,000 to $40,000 daily," Costa Rica's foreign minister Manuel Gonzalez told The New York Times. "It’s complicated logistics: security, medicine, food, electricity. It’s quite an important daily expenditure.”

The U.S. contributed the $1 million dollars through the International Organization for Migration.

“We expect this particular contribution to be a one-time contribution, and the final amount that will actually be provided to I.O.M. will depend upon needs on the ground, given that the number of vulnerable migrants in need of immediate humanitarian aid in Costa Rica fluctuates,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement.

The Pew Research Center noted that the number of Cubans entering the U.S. went up dramatically in 2015 after President Barack Obama normalized relations with Cuba.

The center cited numbers from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection that found 43,159 Cubans entered the U.S. through a port of entry in 2015, a 78 percent increase from 2014 when 24,278 Cubans came to the U.S.

The Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 requires that Cuban immigrants enter the U.S. from a port of entry and make it through a background check. After one year in the U.S., Cubans can apply to be permanent residents.

Cuba has not liked the law, which dates back to the Cold War days, but with the normalization between Cuba and the U.S., some immigrants fear the special treatment may come to an end.

Marc Rosenblum, deputy director of the U.S. immigration policy program at the Migration Policy Institute, told CNN in January: "There is this concern that Cuba special privileges will be eliminated, so Cubans are trying to get out while the getting's good."

Sources: The New York Times, Pew Research Center, CNN / Photo credit: Bruce Thomson/Flickr