A Cuban man was scheduled for an asylum hearing recently in San Diego after being detained by U.S. immigration officials at the San Ysidro Port of Entry over a year ago. The man previously spent more than 10 years in a Cuban prison for speaking out against Fidel Castro and is once again hoping to be freed, this time in the United States. The Department of Homeland Security considers the man a threat against national security, but the man’s lawyers and the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties dispute that claim. The ACLU has sued on the man’s behalf, hoping to have him released from the detention facility until a decision is made regarding his asylum application.
The man, labeled a contra-revolutionary in Cuba, says that being detained has led him to view the U.S. in a similar light as Cuba. In a telephone interview, he compared his current situation in the U.S. to Cuba’s laws that punish those who speak against the government. Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not permit the man to be interviewed in person and would not discuss his case. A judge required the government to respond to the ACLU lawsuit by Jan. 26.
Immigrants arriving at a United States port of entry seeking asylum or for humanitarian purposes are not brought before a judge for a bond hearing. Instead, ICE decides whether to parole or detain the individual. The ACLU has recently argued that judges, not ICE, should decide whether asylum seekers are held or released.
The challenges this man faces appear to be linked to his pro-democracy activities more than two decades ago in Cuba, issues that do not seem to portray him as someone who might be a national security threat to this country. The man’s attorneys stress that his past is irrelevant, describing his activities as harmless political discussions.
The man states that he wants to be here legally so that he can work and pay taxes. He has family in Los Angeles and hopes to live with them after his asylum hearing. While it remains to be seen what the result will be, the case underscores the sensitivity surrounding the prolonged detention of some individuals who have petitioned for political asylum.
Source: U-T San Diego, “Detained Cuban awaits asylum,” Elizabeth Aguilera, Jan. 24, 2012