Cuban Immigrants Using Southern Routes to Cross US Border

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HIDALGO- The Rio Grande Valley’s ports of entry are experiencing a surge of Cuban immigrants who are using southern routes to enter the U.S.

Cuban immigrants cross the Hidalgo International Bridge and plan for what’s next in their journey.

Yordanka Ramirez Pupo said she is breathing a sigh of relief. A 2,000-mile trip and the dangers along the way are behind her.

“I had a gun pointed at me,” Ramirez Pupo said. “They took our money. They took our phones. It's been very hard.”

Ramirez Pupo said she was given asylum. She’ll soon look for work.

“We were fighting to get here, because it's always been our dream to come here,” Ramirez Pupo said.

The Cuban immigrant said her journey began in Ecuador. It’s the only country in Latin America that allows Cubans to enter without a visa.

From Ecuador, Ramirez Pupo crossed by land through Colombia, Central America and Mexico.

More than 40,000 Cubans are part of a surge coming through the U.S. border. Ecuador is now closing the door on the Cuban immigrants.

"They are requiring presenting some evidence to travel to Ecuador," Ramirez Pupo said.

Cubans now need to prove their case to an Ecuadorian diplomat.

Ramirez Pupo said fewer people are going to get through.

UTRGV professor Arturo Lopez Levy said the number of Cubans crossing in the U.S. will slow down in April or May, after the bottleneck clears. More than 7,000 Cubans are in that bottleneck. They are stopped on their journey to the north at the Nicaraguan border.

Cuban refugee Pedro Blanco Fleites said people in Cuba are determined to come to the U.S.

“People will keep trying because they're desperate,” he said. “They'll try to get here on boats.”

Desperation will keep Cubans from crossing into the U.S. If they can’t go through Ecuador, they will seek U.S. asylum any way they can.

The Ecuadorian government said the decision to tighten visas comes after other countries in South America and Central America became affected by immigration. They also suggest the U.S. should reconsider their existing Cuban asylum laws.

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