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June 1999, Volume 6, Number 6

Central Americans, Caribbean

Central America. The Clinton administration on May 20 announced revised regulations under which the INS would presume that certain Salvadorans and Guatemalans, plus their family members, would face "extreme hardship" if they were deported from the US. The new rules, effective June 21, 1999, cover 190,000 Salvadorans, 50,000 Guatemalans and about 10,000 Eastern Europeans, including principal applicants and families.

Under the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act of 1997, about 155,000 Nicaraguans and Cubans were granted an immigrant status, but Salvadorans and Guatemalans had to prove individually that they would face hardship if deported. Under the new plan, Salvadorans and Guatemalans who were in the US by 1990 will be presumed to be entitled to legal immigrant status. This legalization process is expected to last several years.

A Gallup survey done for the US Information Agency estimated that 600,000 adults in Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador might try to migrate to the US in the summer of 1999; the survey estimated that 292,000 had already left for the US, including 106,000 Hondurans, 3.5 percent of that country's adults. According to the poll, most Central Americans who are preparing to try to enter the United States believe they will be allowed to stay even without proper documents. The INS says, however, that it sees no evidence of a massive influx of Central Americans.

An increasing number of migrants headed for the US are coming through Mexico. The Mexican government reported that 10 million foreigners entered Mexico legally in 1998, and that 100,000 unauthorized foreigners, mostly Central Americans, were deported.

Caribbean. The US may get a new inflow of Cubans in the summer of 1999, according to a CIA analysis that cited domestic tensions in Cuba. Previous mass migrations from Cuba occurred in 1965, 1980 and 1994. Most analyses predict continued hard economic times in Cuba and continued harsh political repression: several dissidents were recently jailed.

The US disaster relief package, with more than $800 million in direct assistance to Central America and the Caribbean, was approved by Congress in May 1999. An intergovernmental conference in Sweden in May 1999 produced pledges totaling $5 billion to rebuild the region. Buddy MacKay, President Clinton's special envoy to Latin America, has made expansion of the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) a top administration priority in 1999.

Colombia. Colombia continues to be mired in wars between the government and paramilitary communist and drug forces, encouraging emigration--some 14,000 Colombians immigrated in FY96, swelling the community of 250,000 in South Florida.


Yves Colon, "INS eases process for Guatemalans, Salvadorans," Miami Herald, May 21, 1999. August Gribbin, "Central American migration predicted," Washington Times, May 1, 1999.