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  1. #1
    Senior Member Brian503a's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2005
    California or ground zero of the invasion

    Island newest portal to U.S. for Cubans

    Posted on Sat, Mar. 18, 2006

    Island newest portal to U.S. for Cubans
    A tiny island between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico is becoming the latest way for Cubans to reach U.S. soil.


    SAN JUAN - Soaked and freezing, the Cuban migrants could see by the light of the moon as 18-foot waves crashed hard on their small boats.

    ''At first, the sea was like a plate. It looked like it was going to be a tour,'' said Hilda Barbara Iglesias, who paid smugglers to take her family to U.S. soil last week. 'Then it got dark and ugly. They told us it would take seven hours, so when it had been six hours, I thought, `Just one more hour.' ''

    The Cubans' voyage from the Dominican Republic -- where many have lived for years -- to tiny Mona Island actually took nearly 12 hours. The waters were rough, but it was the destination that counted: 14,000 acres of deserted natural reserve that is U.S. territory -- which would allow them to stay in the United States under the ''wet-foot, dry-foot'' policy.

    Iglesias and her family were one of the growing hundreds of Cubans turning the Mona Passage, one of the world's most dangerous straits, into a new route to America. She was one of 53 Cubans who have landed on Mona since Saturday. The number of Cubans arriving at Mona -- roughly the size of Weston -- increased five-fold in the past three years, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

    In the first three months of this year alone, at least 155 Cubans have made it to Mona's shores.

    Facing more numerous Coast Guard patrols that interdict and deport Cubans headed to Florida, Cubans are increasingly finding different routes to the United States -- from fraudulent passports in Paraguay to 3,700-mile boat-and-land journeys from Cuba to Honduras to Guatemala to the Mexico-U.S. border.

    The 90-mile-wide Mona Passage that separates the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico has long been favored by smugglers ferrying illegal Dominican migrants to Puerto Rico, where they can stay illegally or try to take a flight to the U.S. mainland.

    But Cubans need only go halfway to Puerto Rico -- to Mona Island, managed by the Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources, thanks to the ''wet-foot, dry-foot'' policy that guarantees they can stay if they make it to U.S. soil. And with less risk. If caught at sea, they are returned to the Dominican Republic.

    ''Mona is pure Cuban,'' said Abel Mejía, Iglesias' husband.

    The majority of Cubans using the Mona route settled legally in the Dominican Republic some time ago after arriving on tourist and work visas. One broad Dominican visa program for Cubans was briefly suspended in 1992 due to widespread allegations of payoffs.


    Those who want to move on to the United States now board the small boats, dubbed yolas, that regularly try to smuggle Dominicans to Puerto Rico. The price tag, up to $4,000, is more than double what Dominicans pay.

    ''They charged us $2,500 each,'' said Ruber Sosa Lechuga, who arrived on Mona Thursday with his wife, uncle and 12-year-old son. ``I gave the smugglers a car and some cash, but I was still short. I gave them the refrigerator, the stove, the microwave, a DVD and a TV. I even gave him a hair dryer. Finally I got to the point where I had nothing else to offer.''


    U.S. officials say the Mona route is attractive to Cuban smugglers.

    ''Smugglers are constantly looking for alternate routes,'' said Iván Ortíz, spokesman for the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement in San Juan. ``They think the chances of getting caught going from Cuba to Florida are far larger than from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico. It is definitely becoming a favorite route for Dominican smugglers.''

    U.S. officials warn that the Mona Passage, a rough body of water that is the meeting point for the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean, is not safe for small boats.

    Mona ''is one of, if not the most, dangerous passages in the world,'' Ortíz said.

    Last year, 34 people died making the trip. In 2004, 110 people, mostly Dominicans, were killed.

    ''A lot of times these yolas are basically homemade vessels which are delicate. Anything goes wrong, and that thing is going in the water.'' said U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Ricardo Castrodad.

    Authorities said the smuggling operations are run by multimillion dollar criminal organizations in Santo Domingo, which hire the captains. Last year, the immigration agency convicted two Cubans and five Dominicans for immigrant smuggling. They were sentenced to a combined 75 years.

    ''I would never ever have left if I had known what it would be like,'' Iglesias said. ``I would tell anyone considering it: Don't do it. Don't do it. Don't do it.''

    Once they reach Mona Island, the Cubans turn themselves in to the handful of park rangers and biologists who stay there. Rangers have grown accustomed to bringing extra towels and shampoo for the refugees who land on their shores.

    ''They get here constantly talking about Fidel this and Fidel that,'' said Sgt. Carlos Cordero, the island's security supervisor. ``They are surprised to see we are not like the Cuban or Dominican police, who go around stopping them, shooting at them and arresting them.''

    Last week, Cordero encountered seven vessels.

    'I remember when the guard said to us, `Don't worry -- you are on free land,' '' Iglesias said. ``What a relief those words were.''

    The migrants usually spend a few days at a detention center in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, and are released to awaiting relatives or Cuban exile organizations in San Juan.

    Both families interviewed this week in Puerto Rico moved on to Miami, courtesy of an exile organization in Puerto Rico that paid their airfare.


    ''The fear we went through was not easy,'' said Sosa, now staying at a Little Havana motel paid for by the Cuban-American National Foundation. ``I suppose the bottom line is that the illusion for every Cuban is to leave -- for Haiti, Santo Domingo, China or wherever. For us, this was the best result: Santo Domingo to Puerto Rico to Miami.''
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  2. #2
    Senior Member Judy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    There is no end to this nonsense.

    Just revoke the asylum policy for Cuba and stop it dead in its tracks.

    Cuba is not our problem nor are its citizens.

    If we want to help Cuba, we will trade with them.

    God knows we're giving it up to everyone else including China who has nuclear missiles pointed at US that can reach US.

    A Nation Without Borders Is Not A Nation - Ronald Reagan
    Save America, Deport Congress! - Judy

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