Cuban and Guatemalan Refugees: Immigration Policies

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 7
Words: 2022
Reading time:
8 min
Study level: Bachelor

Substantial refugee migrations are those in which populations depart in significant numbers intending to escape and move to a secure location. On the one hand, reasons for Cuban refugees migrating to the United States include the expectation of economic limitations, agricultural reform legislation, and Cuban patriotism. On the other hand, deprivation, conflict, and food shortages are among the principal factors that influence the relocation of Guatemalan families to the U.S. and other countries. While Cubans could lawfully move to the United States through various settlement initiatives such as immigrant visa processing, amnesty, as well as diversity lotteries, Guatemalans are denied access. This is due to the nation failing to achieve the conditions required by U.S. regulations. The reason for a reader to be interested in the research topic is related to the analysis of the practical differences in American attitude towards two nations that possess common geographical and thus historical connections.

The USA allowed refugees from Cubans to enter the country and denied Guatemalans. The Cubans entered as political refugees who supported the US-backed regime that was expelled by Castro’s resolution. Cubans came to progress in the economy and grew up in the cigars industry in the U.S. (Kaba, 2019). Guatemalans were denied the chance since the country does not meet the standards needed in U.S. law for a “safe third country.” In other terms, it is a capability to provide access to complete and fair procedures for determining a claim to retreat or a non-permanent defense. In Guatemala’s haven system, exclusively high-level officials affirm claims causing much congestion to a new structure. In fact, this essay discusses Cuban and Guatemalan refugees’ history and how the American immigration policies affected their entry into the United States and children’s affairs from both countries will be analyzed as well.

Guatemala could host a few refugees from other countries or those transferred from the USA. However, many were uncomfortable and did not trust the state’s authorities and nearness to their own countries, claiming to be easily traced by the prosecutors. The transferees to Guatemala complained of the inadequacy of human reception care and obtaining information on what would happen to the refugees in the country (Horvath, 2019). Children and adults waited on the roads for many hours without the provision of water and medical treatment. After registration, the refugees had 73 hours to decide whether to stay in the country, return to their own countries or flee elsewhere. Concerning the people interviewed by Asylum Cooperative Agreement, a diminished amount of attention was initiated to address the interest of remaining in Guatemala (United States of America Department of State, 2022). Moreover, it should be noted that a considerable level of distrust in staying in the country was displayed. Cubans were permitted entry into the United States since they were refugees that shared American political direction, whereas Guatemalans were disregarded since their country was negatively assessed by the United States as per security policies.

History of Cubans and Guatemalans

Both Cuba and Guatemalan countries were colonized by the Spaniards. Cuba was at first ruled by the Guanahatabey and Taino Native Americans. The state’s foreign policy is a dummy of the Soviet Union. Cuba has had a diplomatic structure based on the “one state – one party” concept since 1959 (United States of America Department of State, 2022). The U.S. made many attempts to occupy Cuba without success and decided to give up in 1848 (United States of America Department of State, 2022). The U.S. ship “Maine,” which was blown up in Havana Harbor, caused an explosion that killed 250 people and more, leading to Spanish-American confrontation. (United States of America Department of State, 2022). Cuba faced economic difficulties, including a lack of paper, fuel, food, and electricity, which was only provided five hours a day (United States of America Department of State, 2022). Consequently, Cuba, including major economic downfalls and supply shortages, was impacted by significant military risks.

Guatemala became independent from Spain in 1821 and was seized by Mexico shortly. Guatemalans farmed coffee, sugar, and bananas and practiced agroforestry and fishing. In 1823, the country became part of the United Provinces of Central America with Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Honduras, although the union did not last long and ended in 1840 (United States of America Department of State, 2022). A democratic constitution was neighbors by dominating an Indian culture adopted in 1985, and a constitutionally elected government was initiated in 1986 (United States of America Department of State, 2022). The war resulted from left-wing young officers who led a failed rebellion against the leaders of General Fuentes.

Considering the summary of the comparison of history and the main commonalities, the cultural heritage and political tradition of both Cuban and Guatemalan communities span from the colonial era. Hence, it is feasible to state that these cultural systems have geographical and societal similarities. The major difference in history paths is linked to the fact that the United States attempted to invade and conquer Cuba, which subsequently resulted in serious political implications, including the involvement of the Soviet Union.

Cubans and Guatemalans: Policies

The U.S. currently demonstrate their interest in Cuba as a secure, wealthy, and independent country. America aspires to promote human rights, religious freedom, and democratization in Cuba while fostering the growth of telecommunications and the web (Wasem, 2020). The strategy encourages the development of Cuba’s developing private sector and public affairs, as well as engagement in industries that benefit both the U.S. and the Cuban population. The U.S. is dedicated to promoting secure, organized, and legitimate immigration from Cuba through the fruitful execution of the United States – Cuba Immigration Agreement. The United States is Cuba’s primary provider of food, agricultural goods, and humanitarian relief, including medications and medical supplies.

From the historical perspective, American approach regarding Guatemala can be underlined. The fundamental and overarching goal of U.S. policy and strategy in Guatemala was to protect it from becoming a Communist country (United States of America Department of State, 2022). This doctrine advocated for the continuation of Guatemala’s constitutionally formed government authority, incorporating the peaceful transition of power succeeding the 1963 referendum (United States of America Department of State, 2022). The precaution initiated by the American public authorities regarding the assessment of Guatemala in terms of security and diplomacy as an inefficient state can be highlighted as a factor of influence in denying entry. In contrast, Cuba had strong connection with the Soviet government and Cuban refugees could be evaluated as potentially anti-communist people that were not opposed to American strategies.

Operation Peter Pan

Referring to the issues related to Cuba, its children and the United States of America, it is compulsory to highlight the case that was named Operation Peter Pan. Operation Peter Pan was a massive furtive exodus of more than 14,010 Cuban children aged 6 to 18 whose parents did not accompany them to the United States between 1960 and 1962 (Wasem, 2020). Cuban parents decided to send their minors to flee after fearing Fidel Castro and the Communist Union’s plans to abolish parental rights and keep underage individuals in socialist education places called the Patria Potestad (Wasem, 2020). This included two elements led by Father Bryan: massive transportation of the children using planes to the USA and the programs meant to take care of the children after arrival. This was the most significant enormous migration of young refugees in the western half sphere. The Cuban administration improved education strategies by 1960, where youngsters were taught fighting methods, methods of bearing arms, and anti-American songs. A Swan broadcasting station reported that the authority intended to separate parents from their children and take minors to the Soviet Union.

The Catholic Church and citizens received the rumors, and the government opposers who refused to migrate during the initial surge of the relocation sent children to flee to the USA for safety. Father Bryan from the Catholic Welfare Bureau and the United States Federal established a Children’s Program that ensured the safety and satisfaction of the children in early 1961 (Lamrani, 2021). Numerous unaccompanied young individuals loitering in the streets were noticed, and the government was requested to take immediate action. However, Peter Pan still operated, whereby children used waivers instead of visas signed by the Father to enter the country. Cuban child immigrants were allowed to apply for visa waivers for parents to join the underage group in the USA.

By late 1960, the former Cuban president, Fidel Castro, had expropriated numerous United States Chamber of Commerce in Havana enterprises. The above included Esso Standard Oil Corporation as well as Freeport Sulfur Firm (Jacklin, 2019). These organizations’ executives relocated to Miami to assess the actions of Cuba’s new administration. They decided to help the Cuban youngsters by supporting Operation Peter Pan, believing that Castro’s reign might be temporary. These corporate figures decided to work with Baker to obtain funding from a variety of U.S. firms and transfer them to Cuba. Many houses were converted to homes for the children, and each child was given foster care and protected from adoption. Moreover, a film funded by U.S. Attorney General Robert was designed to assist migrant children in understanding the reasons for being sent to the USA by their parents without disclosing what was happening in Cuba.

Comparing Children in the Past Migrant Countries with 21st Century

Children and adolescents in the past migrant countries had more complimentary, unplanned, unsupervised times than children in the 21st century. In general, since the minors migrated to United States, nobody fully supervised them or checked their well-being as their parents could. The underage individuals in the past were denied parental care due to forced migration to other countries for safety. As a result, such children arrived in the United States without their parents, unlike the 21st-century minors who spend all their time with their parents (Horváth, 2019). According to Choi’s report in 2018, levels of bullying and complaints of headaches, dizziness, and stomachaches in children have remained the same (Lamrani, 2021). There are increased levels of suicide, depression, anxiety, and less life satisfaction in contemporary children than in the past. According to the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research, suicide among children aged 10 to 25 soared by 60% between 2007 and 2018. (Seibert et al., 2019). Thus, children in the past did not accept the right to education as a required one due to frequent wars, unlike the current generation.

Seeking Refuge

The phrase ‘refugee’ refers to persons fleeing from their homes to other regions or countries due to various adverse factors. Seeking Refuge book, elaborated and written Bauman, Soerens, and Smier, addresses the numerous trepidations that some individuals have about accepting refugees into the United States, particularly from the Middle East (Bauman et al., 2016). It shows that nearly 39.2% of refugees have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder compared to just 1% of all residents (Bauman et al., 2016). The writers encourage readers to consider refugees as fellow citizens rather than asylum seekers (Bauman et al., 2016). Moody Publishers, in collaboration with the three writers, state that there is an increase in the number of displaced people in their own countries than ever in recorded history.

Seeking Refuge relates immigration to some of the Biblical refugees. Readers of this book are urged to take refugees as God’s image, talented, and have dignity. The havens deserve time, prayers, material support, and love from the readers (Lamrani, 2021). This book provides the reader with economic facts and statistics, volunteering procedures, and the stories of refugees and immigrants entering the USA. The book fits the church and everyone who likes accepting and volunteering to support refugees.


In conclusion, Guatemalan refugees were not allowed to enter the U.S. since the country did not meet the standards for the U.S. in an asylum. The book Seeking Refuge urges all readers to support, respect and exhibit love to all foreign people that face dramatic life circumstance due to political shifts. As has been observed from the above information, children in the past in Cuba experienced a massive exodus to the United States for safety: most of them were not accompanied by their parents.


Bauman, S., Soerens, M., & Smeir, I. (2016). Seeking refuge: On the shores of the global refugee crisis. Moody Publishers.

Horváth, E. (2019). The Case of Cuban children arriving unaccompanied to the United States (1960–1962). Orpheus Noster. A KRE Eszme-, Kultúr-, és Vallástörténeti Folyóirata, 11(1), 7-22.

Jacklin, J. (2019). The Cuban refugee criminal: Media reporting and the production of a popular image. International Journal of Cuban Studies, 11(1), 61-83.

Kaba, A. (2019). United States immigration policies in the Trump era. Sociology Mind, 09(04), 316-349.

Lamrani, S. (2021). Cuban emigration to the United States, Part 1, From 1860 to 1989: A statistical and comparative analysis. International Journal of Cuban Studies, 13(2), 213-229.

Seibert, T., Allen, D., Eickhoff, J., & Carrel, A. (2019). U.S. centers for disease control and prevention-based physical activity recommendations do not improve fitness in real-world settings. Journal of School Health, 89(3), 159-164.

United States of America Department of State. (2022). Foreign relations of the United States. Office of the Historian.

Wasem, R. E. (2020). More than a wall: The rise and fall of U.S. asylum and refugee policy. Journal on Migration and Human Security, 8(3), 246-265.