On August 16, 2019, a Cuban couple (both doctors) arrived at the US Border Crossing in Nogales, Arizona, seeking asylum after being branded and imprisoned as an opponent by the Cuban government.
But unfortunately, this was not the end of a hellish journey from Cuba for Merlys Rodriguez Hernandez and her husband Lazaro. They spent more than a year apart and were stuck in separate detention centers and the cruel and capricious Byzantine US immigration system.
Need an example? Last year, Lazarus’ request for protection was granted, and Marlies was rejected, despite presenting nearly the same evidence and documentation for the asylum application. The only difference was that their case was heard by a different immigration judge. Lazaro is lucky.
However, many of the 1.3 million asylum seekers waiting to hear their case are unlucky. They are plagued by problems that can last for years, reducing the safety of both them and Americans.
I recently spoke with Lazaro and Mirrlees from temporary housing in Kentucky and Ian Matthew Kaiser, one of the lawyers advocating for Marie’s cause, along with a team of other lawyers and law school students at Cornell Law School. I had the opportunity. Lazaro is a radiologist and Merlys is an intensivist, but neither is currently allowed to receive medical care, and leaving meals on the table is Lazaro’s construction work and relatives and charitable groups. Only generosity.
I believe that the story of Merlys and Lazaro represents the struggle of many other asylum-seekers and does not represent the country that the United States has always wanted.
When our country was founded, the United States was a haven for settlers trying to abandon the yoke of the British Empire. Since then, guided by the words engraved on the base of the Statue of Liberty, we have prepaid that blessing.Give me your tired, your poor, your flocked masses who crave to breathe freely, the miserable debris of your overflowing coast. “
In 1948, Congress enacted the first refugee law in the United States, approving the entry of 400,000 Europeans. Replaced During World War II. Congress has created a series of legislation to codify the current asylum system. This provides a way for refugees who fear persecution in their own country to live in the United States.
We are at risk of Hungarians and Cubans who fled communists in the 1950s, Vietnamese and Cambodians and Cambodians who fled war and revolution in the 1970s and 1980s, Iranians, and now the Taliban. We welcomed the Afghan people.
That was the right thing, and it was wise. That’s because research has shown that the short-term costs of refugee resettlement are reduced by the long-term benefits they bring to the United States in the form of business. The economic growth they generate and the taxes they pay.
Recently, the Biden administration has proposed administrative changes to mitigate the unhandled portion of the asylum case, which will almost certainly not be enough to bring order to this chaotic system. Ultimately, the White House, Congress, and the American people need to decide not to let others do what happened to Lazarus and Marlies. And we hope that sharing their stories here (many of which are spoken in their own words) will help drive our leaders into action.
Why they left Cuba
Merlys and Lazaro were sent to Venezuela on a medical “rescue mission” against their will. But when they got there, they opposed the boss’s request to reuse dirty medicines, forge medical records, and cross-examine the sick about their political beliefs. So Merlys and Lazaro were forced to return to Cuba and, according to Merlys, told me through the translator:
“We couldn’t work as doctors in Cuba because they withdrew our doctor’s license. About how they violate some of the rights we have in Cuba. When I spoke, my husband and we were detained, beaten, and abused. We were persecuted everywhere, in our homes, everywhere we went, and we Worried that this would escalate and we would be put in prison forever, so we decided we had to leave Cuba. “
“I didn’t run away from Cuba because I thought I could live a better life in the United States. I was afraid and wanted to be protected, so I ran away,” Lazaro said.
Cuba running away
Lazaro and Merlys were able to obtain a visa to Nicaragua under a program normally reserved for small businesses. It was the beginning of a difficult road trip through Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico by bus, car, horse and on foot. When they arrived in the Mexican border town of Ciudad Hidalgo, Marlies said:
We were robbed in a taxi. The taxi followed a different path than it should have been, and finally three people came out of nowhere and had them clearly prepared. So they took everything we had. They stole everything we had, and when they were done we were really scared.
Arrive in America
The Trump administration’s previous immigration policy allowed only a certain number of asylum seekers to enter the country at certain times, but both Lazaro and Marie’s were sent back to Mexico after first demanding asylum. I was waiting for the opportunity to demand asylum. Crossed the border in Nogales, Arizona in August 2019. When they returned to the United States and were allowed to apply for asylum, they were mysteriously divided and sent to various detention centers. They never met again for 13 months.
Merlys contracts detained COVID-19
Lazaro was released from detention in June 2020 and was eventually granted asylum later that year, but Mirrlees remained in detention in Eloy, Arizona until October 2020. I’m ill, but I wasn’t allowed to help. She said:
“they [detention staff] I knew I was a doctor, but they didn’t let me do anything. For example, it was really frustrating when someone fainted in jail and knew what I had to do to help them. But they didn’t let me touch anyone or help me with anything. “
In June 2020, Merlys was infected with COVID-19 and was placed in a quarantine cell for 23 hours a day, where he fought the disease for 40 days, losing £ 25 in the process. Merlys says he still feels the impact today.
“I knew the care that patients suffering from such illness should receive. I was in jail when the COVID-19 epidemic, so I didn’t know it was ill, but such I didn’t know what to do because the patient experiencing the symptoms knew what to do, and because of the lack of treatment I received, I still have so much to this day I think there are side effects. For example, I feel like I’ve lost a lot of memory. And I don’t smell things as much as I used to. And this is because of COVID and the attention I got. I think it was because of the lack of oxygen that I had for a long time. It was very difficult and very frustrating for me. “
Merlys and Lazaro reunited
Since Marleys was released from detention in October 2020, she and Lazaro have lived with relatives in Kentucky. However, she has no permission to work and is uncertain when or when asylum will be granted. Currently, her appeal is awaiting a proceeding in 9 of the federal court system.NS A circuit that is itself an accusation of the entire asylum process. According to Merlys’ lawyer, given the fact that Lazaro was granted asylum based on essentially the same set of facts, if the federal government only returned her case to the original immigration judge, she The proceedings will be resolved much faster. In the case of Merlys. Instead, American taxpayer dollars and federal courts …