The first Cuban migrants – who had been stranded in Costa Rica – began arriving in Miami on the weekend distressed over their ordeal, but also grateful to the Central American country for its "incredible humanitarian consciousness" after Nicaragua closed its border to them, temporarily halting their trek to the United States.
Odalanier Diaz, 27, was reunited for the first time in four years with his father Angel after traveling for five days in buses from El Salvador and almost three months of uncertainty since he fled Cuba for Ecuador last October.
"My son is out of danger. He's already in the country of freedom," Angel told EFE on Monday, while expressing special concern for the women and children who are still stuck in Costa Rica.
"I'm grateful ... to Costa Rica," Odalanier told EFE, saying that the jungle crossing from Colombia and Panama was the "most terrifying."
Diaz is one of some 8,000 Cubans who began piling up on Nov. 15 in Costa Rica when Nicaragua denied them entry claiming they posed a risk to Managua's security and sovereignty.
He arrived Sunday night on a bus chartered by South Florida's America Teve television channel that departed on Saturday from the border with Mexico carrying about 50 Cubans, dropping some of them off along the way but ultimately bringing about 20 to Miami.
In recent years, the majority of undocumented Cuban migrants have arrived in the United States via the Mexican border, almost 31,000 of them during the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2015.
Many of them come via Ecuador, the only country in the region they can enter without a visa, although that benefit was ended in December.