Cuban teenager shot and killed while waiting on Biden restrictions in Mexico

Jairon Abraham Cruz and his family

Immigration justice advocates are mourning a Cuban teenager who was shot and killed after being forced to wait in Mexico while requesting an appointment to seek asylum in the U.S. with his family.

Jairon Abraham Cruz, who was only 17 years old, arrived in Mexico with his family on the same day President Joe Biden extended border provisions inherited from the Trump administration.

The boy’s family in Florida is devastated by the shooting, according to reports on Univision.

“I said, I’m dreaming, this can’t be true, and (Jairon’s mother) told me ‘oh mommy, my boy, they killed him, they killed him,'” said Caridad Sotolongo, Jairon’s grandmother, who lives in Miami.

According to the family of the murdered teenager, the crime occurred in a hotel room in Monterrey, Mexico, where the family has been staying since they arrived in that country on January 5.

“That is my cute little brother that I adore, I was waiting for that hug that he told me yesterday by video call,” said Gretel, the victim’s sister, who said she and her parents must wait to cross the border until an appointment in February.

Yamisleidys González, Jairon’s mother, recounted the horror she experienced at a shelter where the surviving family members have been relocated.

“They broke the door, the only thing I saw was the gun, I took the girl and went to the bathroom, I only heard two shots because they shot through the door, but since he was pushing it hit him,” said Yamisleidys.

In addition to fatally shooting the teenager, the assailants—who were apparently gang members looking for some Colombians—tried to kidnap Yamisleydis’s husband, Gabriel Fernández, who managed to escape from them.

The Biden administration’s expansion of Title 42 to immediately expel the majority of Cubans, Haitians, and Nicaraguans –in addition to Venezuelans—seeking asylum in the U.S.

The new border restrictions prompted dozens of lawmakers to emphasize that immigration actions should not come at the expense of fulfilling America’s commitment to restore and protect the rights of asylum seekers and refugees.

Anyone who seeks an exemption from Title 42 must first find someone in the United States to sponsor their application, and then wait outside of the United States as DHS undertakes a screening and review process. Jairon was fatally shot while caught up in this process.

 “Seeking asylum is legal. But to seek asylum, people need a safe place from which to tell their story and to be heard by a government official,” said Jennifer Nagda, policy director at the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights. “President Trump’s implementation of Title 42 and President Biden’s continuation and subsequent expansion of Title 42 to nationals of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela completely disregard this critical aspect of seeking asylum.”

“Instead, these policies put human beings directly in harm’s way, in violation of our obligations to those who seek protection at our border,” said Nagda. 

Seventy-seven Democrats issued a stern rebuke against Biden for extending border provisions inherited from the Trump administration, highlighting the wide ideological gulf in Congress as lawmakers hope to find a bipartisan path forward on border security.

Biden extended Title 42, pairing it with a set of new pathways to legal immigration for select countries as a temporary measure that the White House claims will address surging crossings at the border with Mexico.

The progressives called that plan a betrayal of Biden’s campaign promise to end Trump’s border policies.

“Trump has misallocated resources into bullying legitimate asylum seekers,” said Biden’s 2020 campaign website. “Trump fundamentally misunderstands how to keep America safe because he cares more about governing through fear and division than common sense solutions.”

“Trump’s policies are also bad for our economy,” Biden’s campaign website said. “For generations, immigrants have fortified our most valuable competitive advantage–our spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship.”

The January 25, 2023 letter is the latest in a series of proposals and demands made by members of Congress as lawmakers once again try to pass comprehensive immigration legislation.

The lawmakers also encouraged Biden and his administration to work with Congress to ensure they develop safe, humane, and orderly border policies that enforce our immigration laws and uphold the right to asylum under domestic and international law.

During his campaign, Biden promised to walk back Trump-era border policies and rethink the nation’s approach to immigration and asylum.

Title 42 was among those policies Biden took issue with and vowed to undo. The pandemic-era health care policy that allowed limits on border crossings was slated to end Dec. 21, but its expiration was held up in the Supreme Court.

Oral arguments are expected in February.

In what some called a reversal of campaign promisesthe Biden administration authorized officials to stop Venezuelans, Cubans, Haitians and Nicaraguans from crossing the border from Mexico without authorization, encouraging them to apply for asylum from home, promising to grant as many as 30,000 immigrants a month from those countries entry into the U.S. for a period of two years.

Critics have said applying for admittance to the U.S. from a home country isn’t always possible for migrants, particularly those fleeing from poverty, political upset or violence.

“Look, we should all recognize that as long as America is the land of freedom and opportunity, people are going to try to come here,” Biden said when he announced the measure. “We can’t stop people from making the journey, but we can require them to come here, and they — that they come here in an orderly way under U.S. law.”

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