Miami-Dade County

U.S. immigration officials deny residence to prominent Cuban exile

Ramón Saúl Sánchez, the president of the Democracy Movement in Miami.
Ramón Saúl Sánchez, the president of the Democracy Movement in Miami. pfarrell@miamiherald.com

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has again denied permanent residence to Ramón Saúl Sánchez, leader of the Democracy Movement and a prominent member of the Cuban exile community in Miami.

Sánchez is now in an immigration limbo and could be deported to Cuba, which he left as a child 52 years ago.

“Sadly, I report to you that the U.S. government has denied me residence with a 17-page list of justifications. I am grateful for the 52 years lived in this generous land which I have come to love like my other homeland. I will continue my fight for a free Cuba,” Sánchez wrote on his Twitter account Monday.

Citizenship and Immigration Services denied his 2002 application for a green card in 2016 and ordered him to leave the country “as soon as possible.” Sánchez appealed the decision, although earlier he had said that he was ready to return to Cuba if he was not wanted in the United States.

Sánchez told el Nuevo Herald that the latest USCIS letter of denial noted it could not be appealed unless some mistake had been made. Immigration attorney Wilfredo Allen will soon ask for a review of the case, he added.

“Among the justifications for denying my residence were the Cuban Freedom Flotillas and the hunger strikes I carried out,” he added. “According to the officials, those activities were in confrontation to the United States. That is false. The only one I confronted was the Cuban regime.”

Sánchez said he was worried that other Cuban exiles could be receiving USCIS letters for their activities on behalf of freedom for the island.

“My request is that this situation be brought up before the highest U.S. authorities. It appears there are officials still making decisions in line with [former President Barack] Obama policies designed to pander to the Cuban regime and neutralize activists,” he added.

When Sánchez and his brother landed at Miami International Airport in 1967, he was allowed entry under parole, a special immigration category for refugees. Sánchez never changed his status to permanent resident under the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act. Like many other Cubans of his generation, he believed that assuming a new citizenship was betraying the cause of Cuban freedom.

Sánchez was active in the fight against Cuba’s Communist regime from early on, and like thousands of other Cuban exiles trained for the armed struggle to free the island.

In the 1980s he spent 4½ years in prison for refusing to testify before a grand jury in a case related to one of the armed exile groups, Omega 7, whose leader is serving a life sentence for carrying out bombings in the U.S. Sánchez’s parole status was also revoked.

After his release from prison, Sánchez became an advocate for peaceful struggle and civil disobedience.

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