Things That Matter

Trump Administration Just Deported 120 Cubans On A Single Plane

We can’t imagine what the energy or conversations might have felt like on the ICE plane that deported 120 Cuban immigrants in one fell swoop. Many of the deportees had reportedly passed credible fear interviews, during which they showed proof of the violence and persecution they would face if they were sent back. This deportation is one of the largest deportation missions of Cuban immigrants in years. 

While Trump is the current president allowing for deportation, President Barack Obama is responsible for removing deportation protections from Cuban nationals, an agreement signed during his last days in office.

“South Florida should be up in arms,” immigration attorney, Randy McGrorty said.

Credit: Catholic Legal Services Archdiocese of Miami, Inc. / Facebook

One of his clients is a Cuban national who sought asylum in the U.S. through the Mexico border. McGrorty told The Miami Herald that his client was on that flight to Havana, but an eleventh-hour paperwork glitch allowed him to be removed from the plane. In a statement, ICE said that “ten special response team operators” were assigned to the flight given “the charter flight’s high number of removals” in order to “ensure adequate mission security onboard the flight.”

The majority of those on the flight didn’t have assigned attorneys.

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The Miami Herald cites “ICE sources” who have said that the majority of those on the flight had passed credible fear interviews. Those interviews are simply the first entry point to being granted permission to apply for asylum, but it doesn’t mean they’re granted asylum. We can’t predict if they would have been deported had they been given attorneys. We don’t know whether the deported group were made up of recent migrants or long-time residents.

President Obama signed the “Joint Agreement” during his last week in office that requires Cuba to accept all deported Cuban nationals.

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Word for word, the document says, “The United States of America shall return to the Republic of Cuba, and the Republic of Cuba shall receive back all Cuban nationals who … are found by the competent authorities of the United States to have tried to irregularly enter or remain in that country in violation of United States law.” Effectively, it ended the “wet foot, dry foot” policy that allowed Cubans to be granted protections the moment they were on U.S. land. Those Cubans had the opportunity to gain legal residency.

Before the “Joint Agreement,” Cuba had a history of rejecting deportees from America, forcing the U.S. to fly the deportees back.

Credit: @albertodelacruz / Twitter

The ICE statement continues to explain that, “the large removal charter is made all the more significant given Cuba’s longstanding status with respect to accepting the return of Cuban nationals ordered removed from the United States and abiding by key provisions of the U.S.-Cuba Joint Statement. Cuba has a long history of being deemed an uncooperative country.”

As the U.S. relations with Cuba have changed, Cuba continues to remain a communist Castro regime.

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Fidel may have perished, but the regime remains strong. “Let’s see what happens to them upon arrival,” McGrorty told The Miami Herald. “Are they going to have access to employment, a place to live? Are they going to have benefits that the other Cubans have? Are they going to face persecution?” Cuba has historically rejected accepting its nationals back because of their public criticism against Castro, or even because they’re age might be a burden on the country’s healthcare. 

More than 37,000 Cubans in the U.S. have been given orders of removal.

Credit: @noticias24 / Twitter

Several attorneys confided in The Miami Herald on the basis of anonymity to raise awareness for a settled community in the U.S. facing persecution. Their clients have lived in South Florida for decades, remaining in compliance with their attendance orders from ICE, and, today, are sitting in detention centers awaiting a decision from Cuba on whether it will accept them back. Cuba can take as long as 90 days to make that decision, given that “The Joint Agreement” only applies to those Cuban nationals that immigrate after the January 12, 2017 accord. 

Cubans make up the largest number of asylum seekers right now.

Credit: @JusticiaLealTV / Twitter

Venezuelans and Nicaraguans take the second and third place in asylum-seeking. Compared to Trump’s first year in office, there have been 4.5x as many Cubans deported so far this year. It doesn’t matter how long Cuban nationals have been in the U.S. If they have a criminal record, they are likely going to be deported, and, now, suddenly, Cuba may actually accept them.

READ: More Cubans Are Being Detained And Deported One Year After ‘Wet Foot, Dry Foot’ Was Eliminated

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In Cuba, Where Food Is Unreliable, Savvy Cooks Have Turned to Facebook to Share Recipes

Culture

In Cuba, Where Food Is Unreliable, Savvy Cooks Have Turned to Facebook to Share Recipes

Photo via Getty Images

COVID-19 hasn’t been easy for Cubans. Not only have Cubans been physically affected by the virus like the rest of the world, but the drop in the island’s gross domestic product has stymied local economic productivity. The island can no longer look to tourism to add to their GDP.

Because of this drop in GDP, food shortages on the island have become more severe than in recent memory. And Cuban cooks are feeling the effects.

Cubans must stand in line for hours at markets with no guarantees that the ingredients that they want will be available.

This way of living is especially hard for Cuban cooks, like 39-year-old Yuliet Colón. For Colón, cooking is both a creative expression and a stress reliever. “The kitchen is my happy place, where I am calmer and I feel better,” she recently revealed to the Associated Press.

Yuliet Colón is one of the creators of a Facebook page called Recetas del Corazón that has changed the cooking game for thousands of Cubans.

Now, thanks to Colón and other curious and generous Cuban cooks like her, Recipes from the Heart is now 12,000 members strong.

The goal of the page is to help struggling Cuban cooks cope with food shortages. Members of the page share creative recipes, tips, and food substitutions. Launched in June of 2020, the page was an instant success. Its success proves that Cubans have been desperate to find ways to adapt their cooking to the post-COVID-era.

To AP News, Yuliet Colón laments about the lack of rice, beans, cheese, fruit, and, most of all, eggs. “What I like the most is making desserts, but now it’s hard to get eggs, milk or flour,” she revealed.

The brightside is, however, that Cuban cooks are finally able to share food-related tips and tricks with each other on a much larger scale than they were before the internet became more widespread in the country.

Now that many Cubans have access to communication apps like Facebook and WhatsApp, they can now connect with one another and make the most of what they have–however little that may be.

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This Is How Cuba Is Developing Its Own COVID Vaccine When It Can Barely Get Daily Necessities To The Island

Things That Matter

This Is How Cuba Is Developing Its Own COVID Vaccine When It Can Barely Get Daily Necessities To The Island

Cuba has long been a biotech juggernaut in the Caribbean. When health crises emerge around the globe or there’s a medical disaster, Cuba is often one of the first nation’s to send medical staff and emergency workers to help. Its medical team has become part of the country’s diplomacy.

But the Coronavirus pandemic has brought economic devastation to a country already facing severe economic issues. Many on the island struggle to even find daily necessities like Tylenol or Band-Aids yet the Cuban government is just steps away from developing its own vaccine against COVID-19. How is this possible?

Cuban researches are making their own Coronavirus vaccine and seeing great results.

Currently on the island, there are five vaccine candidates in development, with two already in late-stage trials. Cuban officials say they’re developing cheap and easy-to-store serums. They are able to last at room temperature for weeks, and in long-term storage as high as 46.4 degrees, potentially making them a viable option for low-income, tropical countries that have been pushed aside by bigger, wealthier nations in the international race for coronavirus vaccines.

If they’re successful and developing and rolling out the vaccine, Cuba – a country where the average scientific researcher earns about $250 a month — could be among the first nations in the world to reach herd immunity, putting it in a position to lure vaccine tourists and to export surpluses of what officials claim could reach 100 million doses by year’s end.

If they pull this off, it would be a big win for the communist government.

Achieving success would be an against-the-odds feat of medical science and a public relations win for the isolated country of 11 million people. Cuba was just added back to the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism in the final days of the Trump administration.

It could also make Cuba the pharmacist for nations lumped by Washington into the so-called “Axis of Evil.” Countries like Iran and Venezuela have already inked vaccine deals with Havana. Iran has even agreed to host a Phase 3 trial of one of Cuba’s most promising candidates — Soberana 2 — as part of a technology transfer agreement that could see millions of doses manufactured in Iran.

“We have great confidence in Cuban medical science and biotechnology,” Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza told The Washington Post this week. “It will not only be fundamental for Venezuela, but for the Americas. It will be the true solution for our people.”

So how is Cuba managing to pull this off despite all the challenges they face?

Cuba is an authoritarian, one-party state with strict controls on everything from free speech and political activism to social media and LGBTQ rights. But the island has always invested heavily in education and healthcare, which has led to an unusually sophisticated biotechnology industry for a small developing country, with at least 31 research companies and 62 factories with over 20,000 workers.

Should Cuba’s vaccines succeed, its researchers will have overcome even more hurdles than their peers in Western labs — including shortages of equipment, spare parts and other supplies, due in part to U.S. sanctions

A successful vaccine could also become a vital new source of revenue for Cuba, which has been suffering a brutal economic crisis that has citizens waiting hours in line to buy scarce food, soap and toothpaste. The economy worsened under Trump-era sanctions that tightened the long-standing U.S. economic embargo of Cuba by curbing remittances, scaling back U.S. flights, ending cruise ship passenger traffic and further complicating Cuba’s access to the global financial system. President Biden has called for a possible return to Obama-era policies, but he has made no such moves yet.

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