Cuba Politics


Posted February 17, 2005 by mattlawrence in Cuba Politics.

Immigration advocates say that some Mariel convicts released under a recent Supreme Court ruling are not getting resettlement help from immigration authorities.

Posted on Thu, Feb. 17, 2005
Freed detainees are left homeless

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Celestino Leyva Núñez and Cárlos Bueno Rodríguez say they are Cuban Mariel refugees released under a recent Supreme Court ruling, men who spent long months in detention and were finally freed—only to become homeless.

Leyva Núñez, 52, and Bueno Rodríguez, 53, said immigration authorities took them by van from a Louisiana detention center to a homeless shelter in New Orleans on Friday afternoon and told them they were free to go.

‘‘They deposited us at the door and gave us no money, no clothes, nothing,’’ Leyva Núñez told The Herald in a telephone interview from an immigrant and refugee aid office in New Orleans. Bueno Rodríguez added: ``They just gave us papers and told us that we could apply for work permits.’‘

Immigration advocates this week claimed federal immigration officials were doing too little to help newly released Mariel detainees adjust to life outside a cell. Federal officials say they’ve heard only isolated complaints, but they acknowledge that more may come as more Mariel refugees are released in the next few months.

Nationwide, nearly 150 Mariel refugees have been released since Jan. 12, when the Supreme Court ordered new prohibitions against detention for foreign nationals who have been convicted of crimes and have served their sentences, but cannot be deported. About 600 more Mariel detainees and more than 100 non-Cuban detainees are expected to be released later.

Immigration officials said they had no information on how Leyva Núñez and Bueno Rodríguez were released, but they did not dispute their account.


The events they described are possible ‘‘simply because we have limited resources,’’ said Manny Van Pelt, a Department of Homeland Security spokesman in Washington. ``We are not a rehabilitative organization.’‘

Officials said this week that they have heard of problems with recently released Mariel detainees only in New Orleans and Williamsport, Pa., a town in the state’s north-central region. Capt. Keith Bowers of the Williamsport police said an ex-detainee was arrested on public intoxication charges on Feb. 4. He was later released.

In New Orleans, the Times-Picayune reported Wednesday that at least two other recently released Mariel detainees had turned up homeless. The newspaper identified them as Exiquio Real-Fuentes and Roberto Pedrosa-Mesa, who was quoted as saying he considered Miami home.

So far no complaints about treatment of released Mariel detainees have surfaced in South Florida.

Immigration advocates here and elsewhere said federal officials were doing far too little to help the newly released detainees.

‘‘The Cuban Mariels are being released without work cards to communities where they have no ties and have no desire to live,’’ said Sue Weishar, director of immigration and refugee services for Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans. ``It is not fair to the Cubans and it is not fair to the communities.’‘

Said Becky Sharpless, a supervising attorney at the Miami-based Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center: ``From our meetings recently with officials, we were told there were no plans to issue immediate work permits or to otherwise transition released detainees.’‘

Chris Bentley, a spokesman in Washington for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said Mariel convicts receive papers that entitle them to apply for work permits as soon as they are released.

But Sharpless and Weishar said detainees should get permits as they are released so they can start working right away.

Van Pelt, the homeland security official, said that in most cases immigration authorities try to help detainees marked for release with some money, typically about $40, and a bus ticket if they have relatives or sponsors somewhere.

He suggested that helping the Mariel detainees is the responsibility of the immigrantion advocates and legal aid groups that pushed for their freedom.

‘‘We are relying on the groups that championed their release to step forward,’’ Van Pelt said. ``So far we are not aware of any plan. But we remain optimistic.’‘

The January court order opened a new chapter in the lengthy saga of the Mariel boatlift, which began in April 1980. Six Cubans crashed through the gates of the Peruvian embassy in Havana that month, and thousands gathered there, seeking asylum. Cuban President Fidel Castro eventually allowed U.S. exiles to pick up their families at the port of Mariel, but he also used the exodus as a way to send some of Cuba’s criminals to the United States.

While most Mariel immigrants eventually were allowed to get green cards—and many obtained citizenship—some were convicted of crimes in the United States and remained on ‘‘inadmissible’’ status under immigration rules.

Because they could not be deported, they were left in indefinite custody in detention centers around the country until the Supreme Court ruled last month.

Now, Leyva Núñez and Bueno Rodríguez say they have left the New Orleans shelter where they were dropped off because they could not afford the $7-a-night charge. They slept under a bridge for a couple of nights, they said, until Weishar found them another homeless shelter where they can stay free for about a week and a half.


Leyva Núñez said he had been in immigration custody for one year; Bueno Rodríguez said he’d been there for two, both with deportation orders that could not be carried out.

Both denied having criminal records—but public records show Leyva Núñez was convicted of a sex offense in Kansas and Bueno Rodríguez of burglaries in Miami-Dade County. Both said they were held by immigration at a detention facility in western Louisiana, where officials declined to comment.

Member Comments

On February 17, 2005, jesusp wrote:

We can spend hundreds of billions of dollars to “liberate” Iraq, but we cannot give these two individuals $7.oo for shelter. That’ what I call compasionate conservatism.

On February 17, 2005, YoungCuban wrote:

No money,no rehab,no work permit,no shelter?

Looks as if they have no choice but to committ crimes to survive?

I wouldnt doubt that is the plan the U.S. had in mind.

On February 17, 2005, alejendro wrote:

Welcome to the good old U.S.of A.

On February 17, 2005, waldo wrote:

Why not they were included in the Cuban Adjustment Act? They could have easily make that Florida law retroactive for them. Would they have been treated humanily differently had they been a part of the rich Miami Oligarchy? No doubt they would had not even gone to jail to begin with. Again, great human equality work by the US.