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Imprisoned for seeking refuge

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In Custody

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In March 2018, Cuban police took Adrian Toledo Flores to a prison cell, violently beat him, and threw him against a sink.

As he started to bleed, one of the officers said, “You don’t deserve to be in this country.”

His “crime?” As a pharmacy technician, he was ordered not to give a man the prescription he desperately needed. But he did it anyway, and the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) – which monitors Cuba like Big Brother with its eyes always open for “counterrevolutionaries” – cited him.

Flores was attacked on three separate occasions. During one incident, officers asked him if he was against the government. Flores explained that he was concerned about the lack of freedom in the country, and that he was troubled by the way Cuba’s dictatorship was affecting young men.

His words only heightened the officers’ outrage.

“You’re going to know the consequences of going against your country,” one of them warned him.

Flores, 22, decided to flee to the U.S. with his girlfriend, who was eight months pregnant with their baby at the time.

Together, they flew to Matamoros, Mexico, before crossing the border into Texas on Oct. 9, 2018. Immigration officials separated Flores from his girlfriend, and then transported him to first to a correctional facility in Mississippi, before moving him Bossier Parish Medium Security ICE Facility.

He panicked, and wondered about his baby. His mind raced with worries.

A month after he was locked up, his girlfriend gave birth. Flores has never seen his newborn daughter in person, as his girlfriend’s visitation requests have been denied. In fact, the facility does not allow any in-person visitation for its prisoners. He did, however, have the chance to “see” her on a video call.

“I felt so incredibly happy,” he said of the moment he first saw his daughter’s face. “But it was also incredibly sad. I’m missing everything. I’m going crazy not being able to hold my daughter. It’s destroying me psychologically.”

In February 2019, after receiving three denied requests for parole, Flores was ordered removed from the U.S. He is currently appealing his case.

Meanwhile, he is all alone at the immigrant prison, separated from his family. He can’t sleep. Officers cut the heat off at 7 a.m., leaving his dorm room “as cold as ice cubes.” To boot, the men are fed scarce amounts of food, often complaining of hunger.

“This situation has been very, very traumatic,” he said.

To help him cope, Flores has asked to see a psychologist. He doesn’t know when he will be granted an appointment, however. It often takes months for his fellow detainees to receive any medical attention.

“People here are always sick, always in pain,” he said. “If something happens to them, they could die.”

As he waits to see a psychologist, Flores said he “cries like a little girl,” because he hasn’t been able to meet his daughter.

“I just want to be with my family,” he said. “I wish the government would give me the opportunity to be with my family, but I don’t know how to make that happen. I’m looking for a refuge in the United States. I just need a refuge – a safe place to be with my family.”

Like scores of other detained Cubans, Flores doesn’t understand why he is continually denied a chance for release.

“I don’t know why they’re doing this to all of us,” he said. “In Cuba, there are a lot of problems, but the judges here are not well-informed.”

As he waits for his appeal, Flores clings to one last desire: “I hope that life gives me the opportunity to live.”

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