INS Parole Policies Are a Hardship, Say Detainees’ Families With AM-Prison Riots-Aftermath Bjt
ATLANTA (AP) _ Linda Serrano is philosophical when she talks about the bureaucracy of the U.S. Immigration And Naturalization Service, but there’s an underlying current of anger in her voice.
″I’ve tried and tried to find out why they won’t let Manuel come home but so far nobody has explained it in a way that makes sense,″ she said in an interview.
Her common-law husband, 46-year-old Manuel Casalis Noy, an inmate at the federal prison in Lompoc, Calif., is one of some 1,100 Cubans in federal detention who have been approved for parole but are still awaiting release.
Jorge Figueiras has been paroled. But his wife, Reyna Ordonez, still fears he might be deported because of the damage done by the Cubans during the uprisings last fall at prisons in Atlanta and Oakdale, La.
″The United States is not going to let this go by,″ said Ordonez. ″Some way, I think they’ll make them pay.″
Casalis Noy arrived in this country in the 1980 Mariel boatlift and later served eight months in a California prison for possession of cocaine. When his time was up, however, the INS sent him to the federal penitentiary in Atlanta, where some 1,400 other Cubans with criminal records waited to learn what lay in store for them.
″Manuel was brought to Atlanta in December 1985, and we came here from California, three months later,″ said Serrano, who lives with her two children from a previous relationship and works as a nanny-housekeeper for an Atlanta family.
While trying to get paroled, she said, her husband worked in prison industries and kept out of trouble.
″He was sending us money, up to $100 a month there for a while,″ she said. ″And we could see him every week. Then, last November, he finally was approved for parole. Everything looked great, I even had a job lined up for him.″
Then came the riots. The Cubans detained in Atlanta and Oakdale were moved to prisons throughout the country.
″That messed everything up,″ Serrano said. ″But when I finally tracked Manuel down in late December I was told he was going to have to go to a halfway house somewhere.″
Serrano said she began trying to get her man sent home instead. After numerous dead-ends, she said, she reached a Bureau of Prisons official working with the INS in Washington, D.C.
″She told me Manuel couldn’t come home because he was on the list to go a halfway house,″ Serrano said. ″But I told her I had made a good home here and that I know a lot of detainees are being sent home and they did crimes a lot worse than Manuel did. Besides, there’s a long wait to get into the halfway houses.″
In the six months since the riots, the INS has sent hundreds of detainees home. Some, like Mario Ochoa, were paroled within a few weeks of their interviews by a two-person INS panel.
Ochoa, who served 26 months for possession of a dangerous weapon with intent to use it, said he was released and sent home to Brooklyn, N.Y., just three weeks after his interview.
He credited his quick release to his wife’s contacts with congressmen and reporters.
He said he was puzzled that some Cubans convicted of lesser crimes remain behind bars. INS officials refuse to discuss the cases of individual detainees with reporters.
Figueiras was transferred to a federal facility in Kansas City, Kan., after the riot. He has since been released to a halfway house and now has his own apartment in a Kansas City suburb, his wife says.
Figueiras must serve his eight-month parole in the area. Ordonez has sent two of her children to be with him and says she will make the trip with her remaining two children when she saves enough money.
″It’s good news that he’s out, but right now we’re going through hard times,″ she said.
Ordonez is the only one who remains of a small group of Cuban women who had moved to Oakdale to be near their husbands and relatives inside the prison.
″The people here (in Oakdale), they still don’t like us,″ she said. ″My older kids, they were always crying, ‘We want to leave here.’
″For me, I’m still afraid,″ she said. ″The small children play together, but I stay inside by myself.
″If I had the money in my hand I’d be gone right now.″
EDITOR’S NOTE - Strat Douthat is the AP Southeast regional reporter, based in Atlanta.