Originally Published in The Miami Herald
Monique O. Madan - October 29, 2020
When a guard approached his bunk bed asking if he’d like to see his family after 18 months in detention, the 24-year-old Cuban detainee thought he was finally going to South Florida where he’d be reunited with his aunt.
Instead, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had other notions. They were planning to reunite him with his family — in Cuba.
Now he’s one of at least two dozen Cubans inside detention centers in Louisiana and Georgia who have told the Miami Herald that ICE agents coerced them — sometimes through physical violence — to sign a form saying they desired to return to Cuba to visit family. The form has long been used by people traveling legally to the island under U.S. embargo restrictions that began in the 1960s.
For Cuban detainees, though, those “family visit” forms are a fig leaf used to justify hasty, permanent deportations, immigration policy experts say.
The detainees, 26 in all, told the Herald that if they declined to sign the travel documents, agents handcuffed them, pushed them against a table and forcibly scanned their fingerprints to get a digital signature. The Cuban nationals spoke with the Herald while in ICE detention in Louisiana and Georgia and provided some copies of the forms to the Miami Herald.