West New York Mayor Felix Roque says he still has a lot of work to do for “La Ruta de Roque,” his personal mission to bring Cuban refugees to America, but when he’s finished, he plans on helping Syrian refugees next.
“John, what I’m doing is bringing public awareness to a crisis: we have a Cuban crisis, we’ve got refugees sitting in the border now of Nicaragua and Costa Rica, in deplorable conditions – without food, without shelter,” Roque told Hudson County View after Wednesday evening’s board of commissioners meeting.
“And I always say I’m very thankful for the government of Costa Rica because they at least allowed them to stay there, in contrast to government of Nicaragua – which actually got ’em out of the country with rubber bullets and tear gas – which to me, was not acceptable.”
Roque, who was born in Cuba before coming to the United States as a youth, has been traveling across the globe since just before the end-of-year holiday season to give his fellow countrymen a better life.
The mayor/pain management specialist says his personal mission has brought him to Panama three times, “Costa Rica multiple times” and just returned from a trip to the Nuevo Laredo/Mexico border a week-and-a-half ago.
While on his most recent trip, Roque met a young boy named Salmonito who has a heart condition. He’s currently staying in Miami, Florida, but Roque hopes to move him to Hudson County soon, where he says the Jersey City Medical Center has already agreed to treat him for free.
“I’m just trying to make a difference and that’s basically how I feel about this whole situation. It’s a shame that we’re living in such a great life … I’m blessed to have what I have, but when I see people suffering it bothers me because I remember when I came from Cuba and it was pretty sad.”
“I’m making a difference, God has been good to me, and guess what? I’m gonna continue making a difference.”
Roque added that 15 to 20 immigrants are currently staying in New Jersey and that, overall, 130 to 150 are now residing in the United States and that his sights are currently set on bringing over 53 Cuban doctors stuck in Venezuela – as well as 1,500 immigrants near the Panama-Costa Rica border.
Roque corroborated the figure listed in the New York Times, $250,000, as the amount of money he’s spent on this endeavor. “Actually, now it might be a little more,” he said when asked to verify the number.
“I’m not counting and I’m enjoying what I’m doing. So this is something that I always wanted to do: I did it when they had the earthquake in Colombia, I did it when they had the flood in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and I enjoy doing this.”
“This is why I became a doctor. This is why I became the mayor: I enjoy what I do.”
The figure is the same amount of money the State Attorney General’s Office alleges Roque took in a bribery/kickback scheme involving a medical imaging company.
Roque has since pleaded not guilty to the charges and has previously stated his attorneys are pushing for a speedy trial.
When asked when the La Ruta de Roque mission is finished, he said once the refugees are moved out of Panama, Venezuela, Costa Rica and Honduras, he said his next mission is to help the Syrian refugees.
“I believe we’re all immigrants, at one time or the other, all our relatives came from another country, so I’m gonna try help them too. It’s not gonna stop.”