News and Facts about Cuba

In Miami, deportation fears rise as U.S. revives relations with Havana

In Miami, deportation fears rise as U.S. revives relations with Havana
BY NORA GÁMEZ TORRES AND ALFONSO CHARDY
01/03/2015 6:50 PM 01/03/2015 7:05 PM

Barack Obama’s order to normalize relations with Cuba has
spread fear through the ranks of thousands of Cuban exiles facing
deportation to the island.

Many of those who have never become U.S. citizens now believe their
removal, a remote possibility before, may now be imminent. Immigration
authorities say there are 34,525 Cubans with final orders of deportation
and an additional 2,264 with pending removal cases in immigration court.
Under U.S. immigration law, foreign nationals can be if they
have a final order of deportation, meaning the order has withstood
appeals and other legal challenges. Foreigners with pending cases in
immigration court generally cannot be deported.

While U.S. officials say they have not changed policies barring
deportation of most Cubans to the island, those assurances are small
comfort for the people in the midst of proceedings or who have final
orders of expulsion.

“I became worried the day they ordered me deported,” said Luis, a
73-year-old exile who in the 1960s participated in covert U.S.
operations against the regime. “But now, when the president
in the White House wants relations with Cuba, my worries are much deeper.”

The majority of the 34,525 Cubans with final deportation orders received
them after having been convicted for a serious crime. Luis spent two
years in for a drug-related conviction in the 1980s.

Luis’s Miami immigration attorney, Grisel Ybarra, says she and other
immigration attorneys are getting an increasing number of calls from
Cubans who fear deportation because of a criminal record. Ybarra and
other immigration attorneys said exiles in deportation proceedings or
with final orders of expulsion should reach out to immigration attorneys
as soon as possible to explore legal options.

In Luis’s case, for example, Ybarra is seeking to obtain U.S.
citizenship. Under U.S. immigration law, foreign-born members of the
U.S. armed forces can become citizens if they served during a designated
period of hostility.

However, Luis did not receive any paperwork from the U.S. military,
because his work was covert.

“That’s going to be the challenge,” said Ybarra.

Another case Ybarra is handling involves a prosperous Cuban businessman
who can only be identified as Rey, 71.

Rey received a final order of deportation because in 1987 he was
convicted on drug-related charges. He served 5 years in prison and 5
years probation.

Since then, Rey has rehabilitated himself, becoming a successful
entrepreneur in South Florida.

Ybarra said her strategy is to seek the reopening of Rey’s case to try
to persuade an immigration that her client has built “equities”
since his conviction that would make him eligible to stay in the United
States. These can include having a spouse and children who are U.S.
citizens or owning a company with a several employees — two conditions
that Rey satisfies.

Not all Cubans are facing deportation because of a criminal conviction,
though. Miguel Romero, 85, was ordered deported because he entered the
United States illegally.

Romero, who lived as an undocumented immigrant in New York between 1952
and 1957, agreed with immigration authorities to voluntarily leave the
country. But a year after Fidel Castro seized power in Cuba in 1959,
Romero fled back to the United States, sneaking through the Mexican border.

Immigration officials discovered him, and eventually he was ordered
deported. Romero has since worked at an advertising company in New
Jersey and later as a house and building painter in Miami.

Romero recounted his story in the Coral Gables office of attorney
Eduardo Soto. There, attorney Mario Urizar said part of the strategy to
help Romero is to use a clause in immigration law that allows foreign
nationals who have been illegally in the country since 1972 to apply for
a green card.

The so-called registry provision enables foreign nationals who have been
present in the country unlawfully and have no criminal record since Jan.
1, 1972 to request permanent residence without family or business
sponsorship.

Urizar also believes that if deportations to Cuba were to begin,
Romero’s lack of criminal record would move him toward the back of the
line. Current immigration guidelines place terrorists and criminal
convicts as priorities for deportation.

Romero currently must report regularly to immigration authorities and
cannot outside Florida without official permission. He has a work
permit and a driver’s license.

For now, U.S. deportation policies toward Cuba remain unchanged, despite
Obama’s announcement.

“U.S. Immigration and Enforcement (ICE) has not changed its
removal policies for Cuban nationals ordered removed,” said Barbara
Gonzalez, ICE senior advisor to Latin America. “ICE operations remain
the same.”

Gonzalez added that for now, the only Cubans being systematically
removed to the island are those on a list of 2,746 people agreed upon by
Washington and Havana in 1984. Of those 2,746 Cubans, most from the 1980
Mariel boatlift era, 1,999 have been deported to the island so far,
Gonzalez said.

Separately, she added, 11 Cubans who did not arrive during the Mariel
exodus have been removed to the island over the last 30 years.

Nevertheless, Obama’s announcement has sparked concern about how the
policy shift will affect Cuban immigrants in general — not only those
with deportation orders or in proceedings.

During Tuesday’s kick-off of the One Bullet Kills the Party campaign,
Miami-Dade County Public Defender Carlos Martínez warned all foreign
nationals, but especially Cubans, not to shoot guns in the air on New
Year’s. If they get , they could also wind up in deportation
proceedings.

“There are Cubans who for a long time have believed there would be no
deportations to Cuba,” Martínez told reporters. “But [it’s different]
given what’s happening right now.”

Source: In Miami, deportation fears rise as U.S. revives relations with
Havana | The Miami Herald –
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article5388627.html

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