An elderly Cuban couple is expected to remain in detention while a judge who presided over their asylum hearing Friday makes a final determination on their fate.
Aquilino Caraballo and Georgina Hernández, 67 and 64, have been held in separate facilities since they were taken into custody on Jan. 13 at Miami International Airport, a day after the former Obama administration announced an end to the immigration policy known as “wet foot, dry foot.”
The case — the first involving Cubans facing possible deportation as a result of the policy change — is likely to set a legal precedent, which is why Judge Adam Opaciuch opted to issue his ruling in writing at a future date not yet known, according to the couple’s immigration attorney Wilfredo Allen.
The case is sticky because wet foot, dry foot generally allowed entry to those Cubans who made it onto U.S. soil without a visa.
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Caraballo and Hernández, who flew to Miami to visit their daughter and son, had entry visas but were taken into custody after reportedly telling an immigration officer during their interview at the airport that they “wanted to stay” in the U.S.
The couple’s daughter Geidy Caraballo, whom has flown her parents in for previous visits from their home in Batabanó, south of Havana, has said they did not fully understand the line of questioning by immigration authorities.
Hernández was placed at the Krome Detention Center in Miami-Dade, where Friday’s hearing — which lasted about four hours — was held. His wife was transported to the Broward Transitional Center in Pompano Beach.
This has been the worst experience of my life, to see my parents detained.
“This has been the worst experience of my life, to see my parents detained,” Geidy Caraballo said on the verge of tears just before the hearing began. “How is one supposed to feel? Devastated.”
Journalists were not allowed into the hearing after a request from the prosecution to keep it closed.
According to relatives and experts called to testify, the hearing centered on a debate about Cuba’s political and economic system and the reality of so-called reforms implemented by the Raúl Castro government.
“It is a matter of establishing a precedent that it is not only about the people persecuted for political reasons, but rather that the system itself denies all rights” to Cubans, said Juan Antonio Blanco, director of the Miami-based Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba, who was called to testify for the defense. “What is on trial today is not a person, it is a system.”
Follow Nora Gámez Torres on Twitter: @ngameztorres