While Cuban-Americans in Florida came out big for Trump, Cubans stuck in Mexico pinned their hopes on Biden

REUTERS/Jose Luis GonzalezCuban migrants in Ciudad Juarez under the ‘Remain in Mexico’ program celebrate former Vice President Joe Biden’s election, November 7, 2020.
  • Even though President Donald Trump lost his reelection bid, thousands of Cuban-Americans helped him secure a wide margin of victory in Florida.
  • For them, Trump’s hardline on Cuba, immigration, and socialism were appealing, but for Cuban migrants stuck in Mexico because of Trump’s policies, that support was a source of frustration.
  • “They can vote whatever they want. They are free to do so, but still I was hoping they would think of what it would mean for me if Trump won,” a 30-year-old Cuban doctor stuck in Mexico told Insider.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

CIUDAD JUAREZ, MEXICO — While thousands of Cuban-Americans voted to reelect President Donald Trump, giving him a wide victory on key states like Florida even as he fell short nationally, Trump’s policies left many of their family members out to dry at the US-Mexico border.

“They didn’t think of us, of me. They can vote whatever they want. They are free to do so, but still I was hoping they would think of what it would mean for me if Trump won,” said Leydy Gonzalez, a 30-year-old Cuban doctor stranded in Mexico.

Leydy left Cuba nearly two years ago to reunite with her family in Florida. But as she was travelling things changed: Trump implemented one of his most controversial immigration policies, the Migrant Protection Protocols — known as “Remain in Mexico” — under which non-Mexican asylum-seekers in the US are sent to Mexican cities to await asylum hearings in US immigration courts.

Cuban migrant Mexico electionREUTERS/Jose Luis GonzalezCuban migrants in Ciudad Juarez react after media announced that Biden won the US presidential election, November 7, 2020.

“I’m really hoping for Biden to end this policy and at least give us a chance to stand in court and fight our cases,” said Leydy.

Leydy’s family in Miami voted for Trump, adding tension to their relationship.

“We argued intensely for days after the election. All of my friends and family in Florida were uploading Facebook posts about how they all voted Trump, and I felt hopeless. I really thought Trump was gonna win the election and I was gonna have to stay here forever.”

When former President Barack Obama ended the “wet foot, dry foot” policy that allowed anyone who emigrated from Cuba and reached the US to pursue residency after a year, the hope for thousands of Cubans vanished.

On top of that, the coronavirus pandemic has delayed most immigration hearings, leaving thousands of immigrants, not only Cubans, worried about their future.

“I’ve been stuck at the border for one year and seven months now, and I still don’t have an appointment for my first hearing,” Leydy said.

‘I can’t keep waiting’

Cuban migrant Mexico electionCarlos Ogaz/picture alliance via Getty ImagesCubans wait to initiate the asylum process with US authorities, in Matamoros, Mexico, June 30, 2019.

Leydy is one of six Cuban doctors stranded in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez and volunteering at a new “filter hotel,” where migrants from all over the world can quarantine for 14 days before transferring to a longer-term shelter.

“I’m glad I found this place where I can make myself useful and at the same time helps me to pay rent and [for] food,” Leydy said. “I’ve been through all kinds of work you wouldn’t believe, and this makes me at least feel safe.”

Alukanda Balmaseda is also volunteering at the hotel as a doctor, but unlike Leydy, she has given up on immigrating to the US and will be staying in Mexico.

“I honestly lost all hope to get into the US. I’ve been stuck here almost the same time as Leydy, but I can’t keep waiting on a hearing I don’t even know if it’s gonna get here,” she said while using an oximeter to check the blood-oxygen level of a young Honduran immigrant.

Of the six Cuban doctors helping out at the filter hotel, Aliuska is the only one staying in Mexico.

“Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like Trump, but I’m not relying on Biden to change things around. We’ve got to remember that Obama was the one who ended the [wet foot, dry foot] program, so why is his former vice president going to do something? Those times will not return,” she said.

Both of them agree that Trump’s efforts to cast Joe Biden as a “socialist” swayed votes among the Cuban-American community.

Cuban migrant Mexico electionREUTERS/Jose Luis GonzalezA cuban migrant in Ciudad Juarez under the ‘Remain in Mexico’ program after it was announced that Biden won the US presidential election, November 7, 2020.

“They think Biden is a socialist, and everything that sounds like communism or socialism is the devil for us Cubans. That’s what pushed all of my friends and family to vote Trump,” Leydy said as she rushed to an improvised cafeteria to deliver breakfast to immigrants staying at the hotel.

But “Maciel,” another Cuban doctor who asked that his real name not be used, is still pinning his hopes on Biden.

“Well, Biden elected Alejandro Mayorkas to be secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security, that’s gotta be good for us, for the Cuban community,” he said.

Mayorkas, a Cuban-American and former Obama administration official, would be the first Latino to lead DHS, the department responsible for enforcing US immigration policies.

At least 10,000 Cuban asylum-seekers remain stranded at the US-Mexico border waiting for their hearings to proceed, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse from Syracuse University. For most of them, ongoing pandemic restrictions mean they don’t have an exact date for their hearings.

Biden is set to take office on January 20. Until then, the Cuban community stuck at the border will have to keep waiting and keep hoping for change.

“I will remain hoping for a change. I’m glad Trump is out for good, and no thanks to my family in Florida. Meanwhile I’ll keep working and helping other migrants as myself to get through these hard times,” Leydy said.

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