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Scores of Cubans recently fled the island nation on chartered flights to Central and South America, then trekked across Mexico to reach El Paso, Texas. The refugees were fleeing the repressive Cuban government en route to the U.S. where federal law treats them as legal immigrants.
The Texas Tribune reports that from October 2015 to February 2016, more than 18,500 Cubans arrived at Texas’ Laredo field office of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which includes ports from Del Rio to Brownsville. If that trend continues, it will shatter last year’s numbers for the same ports, when a record 28,371 crossed. During the 2015 fiscal year, more than 43,150 arrived at the 20 CBP field offices in the United States that process immigrants. More than half — 25,800 — arrived in only the first five months of the current fiscal year.
Last year, the Cuban government declared approximately 2,000 Assembly of God churches to be illegal. Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported, “Religious groups across the spectrum reported varying degrees of hostility from the government.”
Cuba warmly welcomed Pope Francis last fall—but then stepped up attacks on people of faith. As reported in the Huffington Post, Christian Solidarity Worldwide warned of “an unprecedented crackdown on churches across the denominational spectrum,” which has “fueled a spike in reported violations of freedom of religion or belief.” There were 220 specific violations of religious liberties in 2014. In 2015, that number increased dramatically to 2,300. Many of these incidents “involved entire churches or, in the cases of arrests, dozens of victims.”
In contrast, there were only 40 such cases in 2011.
The influx of refugees into El Paso has put a strain on local charities and human services organizations. Among the many church groups now responding is the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, which now houses 80 Cuban refugees at its five-acre Ysleta campus.
Pray for the safety of Cubans as they migrate to El Paso, and for the ministries that are facilitating their assimilation.