Four Mariel Cuban Detainees Sent Back To Their Homeland
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Four Mariel Cuban detainees who had fled their homeland in 1980 but were later convicted of crimes in the United States were flown back to Cuba on Thursday, the Justice Department announced.
The four, including two whose bid for a stay was denied earlier Thursday by a federal judge, left Birmingham, Ala., shortly after 2 p.m. for the 90-minute flight on a U.S. Marshals Service plane to an airport near Havana.
U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemon in Birmingham denied the request to stay the repatriation of Jose Nodarse-Valdes and Juan Cajigal-Mulen. Nodarse- Valdes, 39, was convicted of criminal possession of a weapon and assault, and Cajigal-Mulen, 31, was convicted of robbery and cocaine possession, the Justice Department said.
The other two repatriated were Ricardo Olivera-Quintero, 28, convicted of murder, and Mario Sosa-Hernandez, 50, convicted of illegal possession of heroin with intent to sell, said Justice Department spokesman Joseph C. Krovisky.
Auxiliary Bishop Agustin A. Roman of Miami criticized the repatriations, renewing his argument that the Cubans were denied due process. But Immigration and Naturalization Service spokesman Duke Austin responded, ″I don’t know of any alien in the United States that has ever had more legal review of their case than the Cubans have.″
The detainees, who had been held at the federal prison at Talladega, Ala., were among 125,000 people who had fled Cuba in the so-called Mariel flotilla in 1980.
They were the third batch of prisoners returned to Cuba since early December 1988, when repatriation of some detainees was resumed under a 1984 agreement with that island nation. Five detainees were flown to Cuba on Dec. 2, followed by four more Dec. 15.
The repatriation program for 2,746 Cubans was suspended in 1985 at Cuban President Fidel Castro’s insistence after 201 were returned. In 1987, the United States and Castro reached agreement to resume the repatriations.
The 1987 pact set off 11 days of rioting in November 1987 at federal prisons in Atlanta and Oakdale, La. As the riots ended, the Cuban inmates were dispersed to other prisons.
After the riots, the Justice Department began a review process to determine which Cubans should be repatriated. Some 400 are on a Justice Department list of people who might face repatriation, and another 400 to 500 are on that list but will not be repatriated until they finish serving prison and jail terms, Austin said.
Roman on Thursday criticized the latest deportations and reiterated his call that they be stopped.
″We are asking to defer the deportation until ... we will be assured human rights will be observed,″ Roman said in a telephone interview.
Referring to previous deportees and Justice Department statements that three of the five repatriated in early December kissed the ground on their arrival in their homeland, Roman said, ″We don’t know about where they are in Cuba. We don’t know the situation after they arrive.
″Since the beginning, the Cuban community asked for due process, the same as the United States asks for each person,″ he said. ″I think that the review is not a real due process.″
However, INS spokesman Austin said, ″These people have had formal hearings in front of immigration judges. They’ve had appeals in front of the board of immigration appeals, made up of independent law judges. They’ve had legal action in the district court in Georgia, before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court of the United States has reviewed their cases twice. If that isn’t due process, I don’t know what is.″
Asked about the conditions faced by those who have been repatriated to Cuba, Austin said he’s heard unconfirmed reports that of the 200-some returned in 1985, about 40 were incarcerated.
″These are people who are dangerous to our society, and I think we must understand there is a potential there that they would be dangerous to any other society too,″ Austin said.