Cuban refugee travels by boat, by truck and on foot to get to Minnesota


Sitting in his sister’s house in Hastings, Carlos Cabrera searches for the words in English to describe his harrowing journey to the United States.

He left his home in Cuba in September and flew to Nicaragua, where guides demand huge sums to take refugees by foot through Central America and Mexico.

“Sometimes alone, sometimes in group,” said Carlos.  “My group, 63 person.  Another time 3 person, 4 person.”

It was a journey by boat, by truck, and on foot.  Two weeks later, he was at the southern border of the US, where he was granted humanitarian parole.

His sister, Marta Tierney, took him in and applied for his work permit.  Months later, they’re still waiting.

“We applied for the work permit, we applied for it to expedited, it’s been three months,” said Marta.

Carlos was a civil engineer in Cuba.  In the US, he’s still unable to legally get any kind of job.

“From what they said, it could be anywhere from an additional four months to 18 months but that could change at any time, too.”

Marta’s frustration at the limbo her brother is in is compounded by her high hopes to get other family members in Cuba, which is in the midst of a crumbling economy, out of the country legally

“They have degrees, they’re incredibly intelligent,” said Marta.  “They’re not able to continue to work to give their children a future. What they get paid goes to food.”

Cuba is experiencing a mass exodus unlike anything experienced in that country for decades.  Its economy has been in a free fall, with severe food rationing and power blackouts that can last for days.   An estimated quarter of a million Cubans have fled in the past year.

That exodus has led to severe strain on Florida, where migrants arrive by boat, and along the southern states, where they join thousands of other migrants massing at the border.

In an effort to stem those tides, the White House announced a new legal process for Cuban immigration in early January.

Marta immediately applied for other relatives.  Told approval could take up to two weeks, she’s frustrated that it’s gone beyond that and she can’t get any answers.

She’s reached out to elected officials, but no response there, either.

She is speaking out in hopes of getting the process moving, but also to call attention to the crisis facing Cuba.  Attention, as well, to the unimaginable journey that people like her brother have taken to seek a better life.

“But I also hope to shed some light to our immigration process,” she said. “And the fact that there’s a lot of holes in it that need to be fixed.”


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