Articles Posted in Immigration

APRIL 27, 2017
Marco Aurelio Coello was tortured in Venezuela before he left that country to seek asylum in the United States.

Coello is an activist who took part in a protest in 2014 in opposition to the regime of Nicolás Maduro when he was a high school student.

In due course the protest he attended became violent.
Coello was tear-gassed and arrested on charges of inciting violence before being tortured according to his lawyer. He was subsequently released due to what was labeled as psychological problems.

While awaiting trial in Venezuela the 19 year old student recognized the fact that he had no choice but to flee the country; the alternative could be facing a decade or more in prison because of his participation in the political demonstration.

In 2015 he told a local journalist that he knew he had no choice but to leave his homeland.
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Gilberto Suarez, a 40 year old businessman from South Florida pleaded not guilty after he was arrested for his part in a smuggling ring that allegedly helped Yasiel Puig, a star player for the Los Angeles Dodgers enter the country in 2012. The not guilty plea was in answer to an Indictment which gave away few details other than seeking forfeiture of any proceeds Suarez received from the illegal business deal that brought the baseball player, his girlfriend and spiritual adviser here from Cuba. Other than those details the Indictment was sealed.

Specifically, the forfeiture demand recorded in the Indictment seeks recovery of any funds that changed hands between the two, which were proceeds of a seven-year $42 million dollar contract that was negotiated for him by his agent Jaime Torres when signing with the west coast team. It further goes on to separately list almost three million dollars of cash, two properties and two late model luxury vehicles. The stellar outfielder was only identified as YP in the Indictment

In Miami, after a short hearing earlier this month in federal court, Suarez who was accompanied by his brother and wife at the bond hearing was released on $120,000 bail. His formal release occurred later in the day after he posted 10 percent of the compulsory amount. The arrest was carried out by Homeland Security Investigation’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (HIS-ICE). The primary charge was conspiracy to introduce aliens to the United States.

The Indictment stemmed from a civil lawsuit that was filed in federal district court in Miami against Puig that revealed how he eventually arrived in the states. Miguel Angel Cronbach Daudinot, a Dominican National filed the lawsuit while still in custody in Cuba claiming the court has jurisdiction under the Torture Victim Protection Act which sanctions civil cases to be heard in the United States versus persons who “commit torture while acting in an official capacity for a foreign nation.” Cronbach Daudinot maintained that the inhuman mistreatment he received while being in jail qualified as such.

The civil suit seeks monetary damages of $12 million dollars for “prolonged arbitrary detention and torture,” that resulted in a seven-year prison sentence. He now contends he suffers “poor mental and physical health” as the result of his imprisonment.

In 2010, Cronbach Daudinot was jailed after Puig and his mother testified against him as being a member of a human trafficking ring. Although he denied the claim in court he was convicted of basically attempting to plot Puig’s latest escape from the Island Nation.

Cronbach Daudinot repudiated the allegations stating that Puig made false statements against him so he would gain favor with the government to be reinstated to again play baseball for the Cuban National Team. Puig had previously been suspended after previous attempts at defection to the U.S. Cuban officials’ justly believed that he would attempt it again.

After over three years in prison Cronbach Daudinot was released into a “provisional liberty” program where he will serve the balance of his sentence. The probationary program limits his travel as well as requiring him to check in with authorities on a pre-specified timely basis.

According to documents filed in that case Suarez was named as one of the men that put up the money to transport Puig from Cuba to a small fishing village located near Cancun, Mexico. Initially, $250,000 was paid but the smugglers known as lancheros raised the rate to $400,000 before the crossing was concluded to Isla Mujeres, the village in close proximity to Cancun.

Yunior Despaigne, a Cuban boxer who had a hand in setting up the transaction also made the trip with Puig and his group signed an affidavit stating that the men who paid the smugglers to arrange the trip eventually hired others known as “fixers” to move them out of the smuggler’s custody where they were being held captive in a boardinghouse, unable to leave the premises without a chaperone as well as being under constant observation by guards.

They were finally transported to Mexico City via a cigarette boat where the outfielder was introduced to eager baseball scouts. It was later learned that the “lancheros” that finally liberated them from Cuba had deep ties to the Los Zetas cartel and were the actual leaders of the alien smuggling and boat theft ring. He also stated in the affidavit that it was conveyed to him that Suarez and others involved in the deal would be receiving a substantial percentage of Cuban National’s contract.

From Mexico City, entry into the United States for Puig and his party was simple after first landing in Texas allowing them to make use of the “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy.
They walked across the Rio Bravo/Rio Grande International Bridge between Mexico, and Texas, entering the Immigration and Customs patrol station on the U.S. side. Able to prove Cuban citizenship with their National ID cards they were allowed to stay and declare asylum.

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Italo Morales had lived in Hollywood, Florida for nearly ten years after he fled his native Honduras in 2005. Morales, now 27 years old is gay. He left Honduras nearly ten years ago, following his partner who also bolted from the country due to the violence against the small gay community that survives there on a daily basis.

As a country, Honduras can boast to being the murder capital of the world. The homicide rate is an alarmingly high ratio of almost one individual per every one thousand annually; earning this reprehensible label and nearly doubling its closest rival in this tragic classification, according to the United Nations. Venezuela stands at number two with a murder rate which is still at a chilling 0.5 persons per thousand. To put the above statistics into perspective, the United States has approximately one twentieth the total amount of annual homicides compared to Honduras, according to the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report.

Over the past five years, nearly one hundred gay persons have been murdered in the Central American Country. But nobody knows exactly how many actual murders of LGBT individuals have been committed, as being openly gay only adds to the possibility of a death sentence causing most of those with that sexual orientation to live there in the shadows.

When Morales entered the United States ten years ago it was shortly after the US changed policy in 1994 to allow people to seek asylum based on their sexual orientation. Morales took advantage of the change in policy leaving his homeland and entering the U.S. He has been seeking legal asylum ever since and was allowed to remain here under the condition that he wore an ankle bracelet.

After his arrival he found work at a Colombian restaurant in the neighboring area and had no work-related problems reported. Over the past ten years he lived a quiet life as explained by his partner Santos Quintilla.

Quintilla reportedly told the New Times “Basically what his life consisted of was going to work and coming back home and maybe the occasional weekend outing.” He also told the publication that when Honduras constitutionally barred same-sex marriage as well as adoptions by same-sex couples that was personally enough to make him leave the country.

Italo left soon after he did seeking asylum and a better life. He also mentioned during the interview, which was given in Spanish that “People like Italo don’t do well in places like Honduras. They get beat up and sometimes killed.”

Violence against gays specifically has accelerated since a coup d’état in 2009 which led to the ouster and exile of then-president Zelaya. The coup directed a suspension of many civil liberties as well as the imposition of curfews. The torture and killing of persons living in Honduras, within the LGBT community vastly increased since the change in regime.  It has been alleged that some of the murders have even been committed by the nation’s police.

Morales’s wearing of an ankle bracelet was the effect of a federal pilot program that was initiated in 2003 to diminish the ongoing problem of the nationwide overcrowding of prisons and the cost to taxpayers that went into the millions while ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) was holding undocumented immigrants who were awaiting asylum cases to be heard. The program continued and is still active today.

In Morales’s case, he was living what’s been termed “a regular life” when he was summoned to appear in Immigration Court this past March. The reason for the call was to check his ankle bracelet that appeared to be malfunctioning due to its battery running low. After his appearance in court, he was deported to his native country within a few days. News reports were sketchy at best for the reasons he was sent back to Honduras.

Right now, Morales is said to be in Mexico after journeying north in an attempt to re-enter the United States. He is trying to gather enough funds to acquire assistance for finding a way to get across the border, according to informed sources. Latest reports establish that at the time of the writing of this article, he could be found just south of El Paso, Texas.

But even if he does make it across, with or without help, he intends to continue his journey until he reaches his ultimate destination of Hollywood, Florida. However, when also interviewed by the New Times his lawyer explained that as an officer of the court, he’d have no choice but to hand him over to immigration officials if he came to his office.

But, the attorney believes that his client has a solid case. He was quoted as saying “It’s a very good case, according to case law,” and believes that if he can prove that it’s likely his client could face injury or death if again sent back to Honduras, there’s a good chance asylum may be granted. He also stated that proving those facts shouldn’t be too difficult.

To find out more about this topic, and read more about it, click here to go to the Immigration page on my Website.

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A cocorrido is a type of Spanish folk music which is said to date back to the Mexican Revolution of 1910. These catchy melodic ballads originally told the stories of revolutionary fighters and their heroic acts and escapades. In recent years this genre of music has evolved, and the similar narcocorrido has become a contemporary type of this musical tradition. It uses an accordion-based polka type technique as a rhythmic base. These new corridos, focusing on drug smugglers have added the word “narco” to the original genus which comes from the English word “narcotics”. Some music critics have also compared the very danceable narcocorrido songs to the gangster rap variety.

In a current song by the Spanish band Los Tucanes de Tijuana, it is said that Sandra Avila Beltran, 52 is connected to the lyric “The more beautiful the rose, the sharper the thorns.”

Last week Avila Beltran was deported back to Mexico after last month’s sentencing in Miami. She was among 129 individuals detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) which is the primary investigative division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. She and the others were flown to Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City and handed over to authorities.

Avila Beltran, dubbed “Queen of the Pacific” (La Reina del Pacífico) by the mass media was first detained and arrested in September, 2007. She was charged with conspiracy to traffic drugs as well as other organized crime charges. Although some of the charges were hastily dropped she remained in custody for money laundering, and possession of illegal weapons. She was extradited to the U.S. in August, 2012 to face criminal charges brought about by the U.S. government. At the time of her arrest the Mexican government and U.S. officials considered her a significant link to the Sinaloa Mexican drug cartel as well as the Colombian Norte del Valle Cartel.

Avila Beltran is no stranger to the illegal drug trafficking business. A family member, Rafael Caro Quintero was at one time the leader of the Guadalajara Cartel. Other family members have played a crucial part in her illicit career. Police in Mexico point out that she’s the niece of Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, who was at one time known as the godfather of the entire Mexican drug business. Gallardo is currently serving the balance of a forty-year sentence for the murder of U.S. DEA special agent Enrique Camarena in 1984. Additionally, her great uncle Juan Jose Quintero Payan was previously extradited to the United States for drug trafficking charges. Similarly her mother’s side of the family became involved in heroin trafficking in the 1970s and later expanded their operations to include the marketing of cocaine. DEA agents have stated that Avila Beltran never moved away from engaging in the viciousness that comes with the territory and that “she used the typical intimidation tactics of Mexican organizations.”, and in effect was a “third-generation” drug trafficker.

She had love affairs with more than a few recognized drug lords in her younger days. She twice married; both times to ex-police superiors who switched their careers by becoming drug traffickers. Both of her husbands were killed by hired assassins at a later time. Officials consider her rise to prominence in the drug trafficking trade largely to her most recent bond with Juan Diego Espinoza Ramirez, who goes by the name of “The Tiger.” Ramirez is known to be a significant member of the Colombian Norte del Valle cartel. Avila Beltran lived in Guadalajara, Jalisco, and Hermosillo, Sonora, until in excess of nine tons of cocaine was discovered by police in 2001 on a ship in Manzanillo, Colima in the Pacific port of Mexico. The authorities, through their investigation, were able to track the cargo to both her and Ramirez. She had dodged authorities for years, until they tied her to this shipment.

The spotlight inadvertently fell on Ms. Beltran when it was she that alerted authorities, asking for their assistance, when her then teenage son was kidnapped and held for a $5 million ransom in 2002. Her son was eventually returned but the case raised suspicions into her activities. These suspicions and inconsistencies finally propelled an investigation into her way of life. More than four years after her son’s return the investigation that was carried out by more than 30 federal agents finally yielded enough evidence to lead to her arrest.

This April, in Miami federal court Avila Beltran pleaded guilty to the charge of being an accessory after the fact to the charge of drug trafficking. She was sentenced to just less than six years in prison. However, she was let go almost immediately; being credited for time she had already served in Mexico. She had been in custody in that country since 2007.

In Mexico, she was charged with conspiracy to traffic drugs, and charges of organized crime. She was acquitted of those charges in 2010 by a Mexican judge, but was extradited in 2012 and sent back to South Florida to face new charges of conspiring to smuggle large amounts of cocaine into the U.S more than 10 years ago.

Avila was released on July 30 from a Miami federal prison and handed over to ICE. She was deported from Miami back to Mexico last week.

In a news release, Field office director of ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations Adrian P. Macias stated that “The deportation of this convicted aggravated felon, as thousands of others, is the result of the robust working relationship ICE has with the government of Mexico”

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As the controversial debate over immigration reform intensifies in the legislature, Cuban Immigration rights activists in South Florida say they have grown distressed over a separate bill filed by Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX). Smith is the powerful chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and draftsman of laws that strengthened immigration enforcement in 1996.

The bill affects Cubans with deportation orders and enables authorities to re-detain those of them who have been previously convicted of crimes, for an indeterminate period of time.

The activists are carefully observing the bill’s progress through the House although there seems to be no immediate danger of the bill becoming law.

The Immigration rights advocates maintain that the bill proposed by Smith would fundamentally reestablish the capability of immigration authorities to indefinitely hold previously convicted foreign nationals up until the time they can be deported.

The U.S. Immigration Service lost that ability in 2001, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that foreign nationals, who cannot be deported, should not be held in detention longer than a period of six months. The Supreme Court upheld that ruling again in 2005.

Although the Smith bill does not specifically mention Cubans, the activists fear that Cuban immigrants are probable to be amongst the utmost affected by the passage of the bill due to the fact that they compose one of the largest groups of foreign nationals who may not be deported, in some cases due to Florida’s wet foot, dry foot policy.

However, a staffer that works under Smith in the House Judiciary Committee was quoted as saying that the bill does not target all “non-deportable” Cubans but rather aims at “dangerous non-deportable criminal immigrants,” whether they are Cuban nationals or their origin is from any other foreign locale. He went on to say that “prolonged” detention would be reserved for rapists, child molesters, murderers and those that have committed and been convicted of aggravated felonies, the latter, under immigration law include various drug offenses as well as other non-specified crimes.

In further comment the staffer implied that the bill would not be retroactive although many immigrant rights activists were concerned that the language suggested in the bill would permit immigration officials to detain foreign nationals, including Cubans even if their deportation directives were dispensed prior to the bill being legislated.

In February of this year the US Supreme Court decided the case of Chaidez v. United States holding that Padilla v Kentucky decided in 2010 was not retroactive; thereby depriving non-citizens of the protections afforded those defendants who pled guilty without being properly counseled about the deportation consequences of their guilty pleas in the past. *See footnote
The Padilla post-conviction litigation generated a lot of commentary across the nation. The principal concern in those cases is whether defendants who were convicted prior to the Padilla case’s finality could benefit from the results of the Padilla ruling. Ultimately, the question asks if Padilla relates retroactively. Whether this decision will have any bearing on the newly introduced Smith bill has yet to be determined.

In a statement issued by Susana Barciela, the policy director for the Miami-based Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center commented “This bill is so sweeping that it would result in thousands of harmless immigrants being jailed for years, among them, asylum seekers and torture survivors.”

Ira Kurzban, a Miami immigration lawyer said the Smith bill is an “attempt to reverse” prior Supreme Court rulings. Kurzban is considered to be a national authority on immigration law.

According to a report that will be released this month, the majority of foreign nationals being held for deportation by the debated immigration enforcement program termed “Secure Communities” in Dade County, Florida were not criminals who posed a danger to the community.

The 57 page report, “False Promises: The Failure of Secure Communities in Miami-Dade County,” concluded that their findings are inconsistent with the detailed intentions of the 2008 federally launched program.

These objectives are the detainment and deportation of sentenced and convicted foreign nationals who categorize a sustainable threat to general public safety and those who repeat violations of existing immigration laws, as displayed in example by immigrants who have returned to the United States after their deportation only to commit and be convicted of further crimes.

“Contrary to these policy goals, we found that 61 percent of individuals ordered for removal from Miami-Dade County are either low-level offenders or not guilty of the crime for which they were arrested,” according to the “False Promises” report.

The Research Institute on Social & Economic Policy at Florida International University’s Center for Labor Research & Studies and the staff of a Miami immigrant-rights organization, Americans for Immigrant Justice, jointly organized and prepared the report.

*Further subject matter dealing with this topic can be found on the In the Media section of this Website referencing the case of State v. Owran Green.

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