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HavanaJournal.com: Cuba Politics

Wet foot - Dry Foot policy challenged in Florida court

Posted June 14, 2005 by publisher in Cuba Politics.
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BY MADELINE BARO DIAZ | South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Attorneys for a Cuban family that tried this week to float to South Florida on a vintage vehicle-turned-boat asked a federal judge Wednesday to let the family into the United States.

The four family members, identified by relatives as Rafael Diaz Rey, his wife Nivia Valdes, 10-year-old son David Diaz Valdes and 16-year-old stepson Pablo Alfonso Valdes, obtained immigrant visas from the United States through the Cuban visa lottery, according to their relatives.

Cuban authorities would not give Nivia Valdes permission to leave the country because she is a doctor and also denied an exit permit to Pablo Alfonso Valdes because he is old enough for military service, said Miami attorney Wilfredo Allen.

In a motion filed Wednesday afternoon, attorneys for the family asked U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore to allow the family into the United States. They also asked the judge to review the procedures U.S. officials have in place for visa-holders found at sea and to temporarily halt the repatriation of all Cuban and Haitians intercepted at sea.

Allen said that that with their visas in hand, the Diaz family tried to reach a U.S. port of entry in a 1948 Mercury taxicab that Diaz Rey rigged into a boat.

“I think we have a strong case,” Allen said. “A port of entry could be anywhere, even Key West.”

The U.S. Coast Guard intercepted the blue cab with at least 10 people on board Tuesday night about 20 miles off Key West. Family members said they think the Diaz family was still on a Coast Guard cutter Wednesday.

Coast Guard officials on Wednesday would not divulge details about the incident, but confirmed that they sank the car as a hazard to navigation. Under U.S. immigration policy, Cubans and Haitians intercepted at sea receive immigration interviews and, if they do not show they have a credible fear of persecution in their homelands, are repatriated.

It was the third time in the past two years that Cubans attempted to make it to the United States on cars or trucks turned into boats. In July 2003, the Coast Guard intercepted a 1951 Chevy truck about 40 miles off Key West and in February 2004, they intercepted a 1959 tail-finned Buick about 10 miles off Marathon.

Diaz Rey and his family were on the Buick, but were repatriated to Cuba. In that case, the same attorneys representing the Diaz family intervened on behalf of another family on the Buick. That family - Luis Grass, his wife and son - went to the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo and U.S. authorities later resettled them in Costa Rica. In March, the Grass family crossed the Mexican border and entered the United States.

The Grass family, however, did not have visas. That means the Diaz family has a stronger case, Allen said.

In an affidavit filed to support the attorney’s request, Elena Diaz Rodriguez, a cousin of Diaz Rey’s, said Diaz Rey told her that the U.S. Interests Section in Havana gave the family visas in June 2004. The visas were valid for one year, she said. If returned to Cuba, she said Diaz and his wife would be arrested, as they were in the past. The State Department said Wednesday that visa issues and records are confidential. Diaz Rodriguez also said Cuban officials continually harassed the couple and did not allow them to work in Cuba.

Despite being under the watch of Cuban officials, Diaz Rey managed to build his Mercury boat, just as he built the Buick and another vehicle he has said he tried to float off the island during the 1994 rafter crisis. A mechanic, Diaz Rey was convinced that the car boats were a safe way to travel, said his uncle Jesus Diaz Martinez.

“He had no other alternative,” he said.

The Diaz family attorneys, who are working pro bono, name six other people in their motion who they believe were in the taxi boat and three others whose names they don’t know. The attorneys say those people could also face retaliation in Cuba if returned.

If allowed into the United States, Diaz Martinez said, his nephew and his nephew’s family would work hard to succeed. His nephew already has demonstrated his ingenuity, Diaz Martinez said.

“They are good people who only want to breathe the freedom of this country,” he said. “They cannot live without freedom.”

Diaz Rey was confident that his Mercury boat would make it, his uncle said. He let his relatives know that he was on his way, that he would leave Monday night and arrive around 3 p.m. Tuesday.

“He hoped to make it all the way to my house and honk the horn,” Diaz Martinez said.

Member Comments

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On June 14, 2005, publisher wrote:

Gotta love the ambitious people who have a burning desire to come to the United States but I think I have to support the “wet foot/dry foot” policy. This guy brought his ten year old kid. Remember Elian Gonzales, his mother died and he almost died too tried to make it here on a raft.

If Cubans are intercepted they should be brought back otherwise, more and more and then even MORE will keep trying.

Many will die.

I like the attorneys’ motions though:

“They also asked the judge to review the procedures U.S. officials have in place for visa-holders found at sea and to temporarily halt the repatriation of all Cuban and Haitians intercepted at sea.”

(They are not asking for too much, are they?)

AND

“The Diaz family attorneys, who are working pro bono, name six other people in their motion who they believe were in the taxi boat and three others whose names they don’t know.”


(Means “We would like to add three other people to the list at some point in the future.”)

 

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On June 14, 2005, yumaguy wrote:

The wet foot/dry foot policy encourages Cubans to play Russian Roulette with their lives. The waters of the Florida straits are more treacherous and unpredictable than many realize. Think about it, do you stay in Cuba and deal with the daily comemierda. . . or take a chance for the big-time, a life in the U.S.? They know that they’ll be welcomed like heroes in Florida and get all kinds of assistance to establish themselves over here. Many have family members in Miami who subsidize their escape efforts and encourage them to go for it.

The question that arises has to do with fairness. Are they coming for political reasons, i.e., “lack of freedom” or is it just economic? If it’ mostly for economic reasons, as I suspect, then it’ not entirely fair since for example, Haitian refugees are usually sent right back to Haiti. . . and let’ be honest here, the situation there sucks way more than it does in Cuba. There may be more “freedom” but a Haitian is much more likely to get killed with all the political turmoil that the western part of Hispaniola is currently facing. And economically, Haitians are even worse off. This group of Cuban refugees were able to convert a car into a floating transport; I don’t think Haitians even have cars anymore! Plus, with relatives in Miami sending remittances, their economic situation couldn’t have been that bad.

Just part of the contradictions of the current U.S. policy vis-a-vis Cuba. Those who want to live in Cuba are affected indirectly by the ever-toughening embargo. In a way, they’re being punished for having been born in Cuba and choosing to continue to live there. But if you decide to “bail out” and can get on U.S. territory, you’ll be rewarded with a green card, something that millions of Mexicans and others can only fantasize about.

I guess it depends on how tired one is of dealing with the comemierda of the Castro regime and one’ level of courage. Many Cubans have died in those treacherous waters chasing that dream that’ dangling so close to them. Seems kind of cruel and manipulative to me. . .

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On June 14, 2005, yumaguy wrote:

Forgot to mention the other contradiction. The embargo is supposedly intending to topple the Castro regime by creating internal weaknesses and pressures that are too much for it to bear. Yet giving refugees who can make it to the U.S. their green cards allows the Castro regime to use this kind of emmigration as a “steamvalve” when things get too difficult on the island. If the people most desperate to leave are given refuge in the U.S., it releases the pressure that would supposedly help lead to an internal collapse/revolution. So what’ the deal here? If anyone’ got an explanation for this contradiction, I’m all ears. . .  wink

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On June 14, 2005, publisher wrote:

D.Robledo nice catch on that contradiction.

Right. Fight or flight. Fight in Cuba or flight to US.

If the unhappy citizens of Cuba can leave rather than “stay and fight”, who is left to put up the fight, Marta Beatriz Roque?

Castro tells Cubans that she is working for the US government and Miami mafia. Not enough people stay to “fight”.

Imagine of all the Cuban exiles stayed and fought for change in their homeland rather than leaving for the US. Could they have ousted Castro if they stayed?

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On June 14, 2005, yumaguy wrote:

10-4 publisher.  And I don’t mean to sound cruel, but let’ face facts, massive emmigration is not the answer to Cuba’ problems. Absorbing 10-11 million Cuban refugees into Florida is not my idea of a political solution!  grin

If we really want to get tough on Castro, even more can be done. Refusing all refugees is nasty, but at least its consistent with the embargo strategy. It’ harsh, but perhaps a little more ethical than this slow Chinese torture the U.S. is dishing out currently, assuming it’ “successful” (i.e., the people can’t take it anymore, violence and chaos ensues a la Haiti, perfect pretext for the U.S. to “step in” and “restore order”).

But the U.S. political elite doesn’t really care about Cuba. They just pretend to so they can draw easy votes from their constituents. It’ better to leave Castro in power but weak. Use him as a bugaboo so they can keep getting easy votes in South Florida.

Y ahora quiÈn es el tonto útil. . .?  wink