MIAMI — A prominent Cuban exile leader has been arrested on an illegal immigration charge because he never applied for U.S. residency.
Ramon Saul Sanchez, director of the anti-Castro group Democracy Movement, was arrested 36 years after he first entered the United States.
Under guidelines tightened after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, non-U.S. citizens without proper immigration papers cannot obtain or renew a Florida driver’s license.
So Sanchez, 49, decided to apply for permanent residence or a work permit and was given an appointment for Tuesday. That’s when he was arrested.
Sanchez could be deported, but because of hostile relations between the United States and Cuba, he probably will not be. And under a 2001 Supreme Court ruling, the government cannot detain him indefinitely.
Sanchez, released after his arrest, said he plans to plead before an immigration judge Sept. 23.
“While I am not going to encourage them to send me back, I will not resist if they want to send me back,” he said. “I leave that in their conscience.”
Sanchez left Cuba in 1967 and was supposed to apply for legal residency within a year, but never did because he said he considered himself a political refugee who would one day return to fight for democracy. Sanchez said he now wants to become a legal resident.