Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Cuban migrants' families push Coast Guard for news on detainees

Posted on Tue, Sep. 26, 2006

Cuban migrants' families push Coast Guard for news on detainees
Relatives of Cuban migrants asked the Coast Guard to release information
on those held at sea, allowed under new Bush administration rules.

Cuban migrants' families push Coast Guard for news on detainees held at sea

Desperate Cuban relatives in South Florida sought information Monday
about their loved ones detained at sea by the U.S. Coast Guard over the
weekend -- at least 108 migrants, an unusually high number of Cubans
beckoned by relatively calm seas.

The dozens of migrants were being held on board Coast Guard boats
pending analysis of their cases -- among the first to be questioned
under new Bush administration rules unveiled in August that promised to
inform relatives of the condition of those being held.

Anxious family members crowded into the Miami offices of Rep. Lincoln
Díaz-Balart to push for news about those they believe to be among the

''We are all desperately looking for information,'' said Aimee Vega, who
believes her 19-year-old son Yalier Martin is one of those in custody.
``We don't know anything from anybody, and we need people to help us.''

The group reportedly includes at least one minor, several mothers with
infant children, and several doctors, according to family members and
Díaz-Balart's office.

Díaz-Balart's chief of staff, Ana Carbonell, told El Nuevo Herald that
family members were asked to give permission so that the Coast Guard
could release information.

Under the new rules exile families are to be notified if their relatives
have been stopped at sea during interdiction operations -- ending an
agonizing information vacuum for family members who often knew next to
nothing about those seeking to escape the communist-ruled island.

This group of migrants appears poised to test the Coast Guard's ability
to provide that information. Martin's family members expressed
frustration that the information was still not flowing.

''I don't think this new system is working very well, because the Coast
Guard says they're going to provide information . . . but we still don't
know anything yet,'' Agnerys Gonzalez, Martin's aunt, said.

The government's new rules also include a provision to reduce a backlog
in family visas by allowing thousands more Cubans with close relatives
to come to the United States.

Vega, who is set to become a U.S. citizen in January, requested a family
visa for Martin, and the approval had just arrived, she said.

''We just hope they will take that into consideration, and allow him to
come here,'' she said.

Last month, the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Citizenship and
Immigration Services unveiled the new measures toward Cuba, which came
less than two weeks after an ailing Fidel Castro temporarily ceded power
to his brother, Raúl, Cuba's defense minister, on July 31.

The long-anticipated measures were the result of many months of
discussion, officials said, and not a direct response to the leadership
change in Havana.

Rui Ferreira of El Nuevo Herald contributed to this report.

No comments: