Mexico clamps down on illegal immigrants from Cuba

Other News Materials 21 October 2008 02:54 (UTC +04:00)

Mexico agreed to tighten immigration rules on Monday in an effort to cut off the main smuggling route for thousands of Cubans headed to the United States, reported Reuters.

"We believe now there will be fewer attempts to use Mexico as an illegal corridor for Cuban immigrants trying to get to the United States," said Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque at a news conference with Mexican officials.

More than 11,000 Cubans slipped into the United States via Mexico last year, according to U.S. authorities.

Most sneak off the island without exit permits from the Cuban government and travel in small speedboats to Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.

Paying smugglers up to $15,000, they then make their way overland to the United States where, unlike other Latin American immigrants, they only have to step on U.S. soil and request political asylum to be allowed to stay.

If arrested in Mexico, the Cubans are often released and continue their journey north.

The lax enforcement will change under the new agreement, with Mexico pledging to send all Cubans caught without proper documents home.

The move is an effort by President Felipe Calderon to smooth the ties between the two countries strained under his predecessor, Vicente Fox.

Fox and Fidel Castro feuded publicly, with the Cuban leader calling Mexico a U.S. pawn, and Fox voting to condemn Cuba at the U.N. Human Rights Commission in 2002.