While Yasmany Jorge Borges Alfonso was detained in a Cuban prison, four police officers beat him until he was unconscious. They took turns hitting him in the head with their batons, each blow harder than the last. As Alfonso lay on the rock-hard prison floor, his forehead dripped with blood. The gashes from his assault were so deep, he needed four stiches. He also lost a tooth from the beating.
A practicing Jehovah’s Witness, Alfonso has religious beliefs that forbid him from using firearms. He is also not allowed to participate in politics of any kind. This did not sit well with the Cuban government. So police interrogated the 26-year-old before arresting, detaining, and nearly killing him.
After Alfonso was released from prison, the daughter of his longtime girlfriend was harassed and bullied by classmates and teachers because of the family’s religious beliefs. Even though he is not the girl’s biological father, Alfonso thought of her as his own. He didn’t want her to suffer, nor did he wish to experience another round of torture at the hands of the Cuban police. He didn’t want to die.
The family’s persecution had reached its breaking point; it was time to leave the country.
Alfonso, his girlfriend and her daughter flew to Monterrey, Mexico, where they presented themselves at a port of entry. Because they weren’t legally married, his girlfriend and daughter were released, while Alfonso was sent to Pine Prairie ICE Processing Center. It’s now been eight months since he left his country, only to be held captive in the U.S. at the immigrant prison.
Alfonso had the documents necessary to be considered for parole. But his request for parole was denied by the New Orleans ICE Field Office, and on Jan. 7, 2019, an immigration judge also denied his request for asylum.
As he looked at the judge in court, it was clear to Alfonso that the judge hadn’t heard – or believed – a word he had said about the persecution he faced in Cuba.
“I felt like a young teenager up there, I was so nervous,” he said. “But the judge didn’t even look me in the eye. The judge was dismissive and wasn’t interested in what I had to say.”
Alfonso felt especially ridiculed when the judge claimed that Cuba was no longer dangerous, before ordering him removed from the U.S.
“Other judges in other states grant asylum, I know it,” Alfonso said. “The judges here don’t even look you in the face, and they don’t read your cases. If they had, they would know that Cuba isn’t safe.”
In the meantime, his girlfriend’s daughter, 13, lies in a hospital bed after recently being hospitalized due to a chronic heart condition that required she have open-heart surgery at the tender age of five. More than anything, Alfonso wishes to be by her side and provide the emotional and monetary support she needs. His separation from her has been grueling.
But he can’t be by her side. He’s a prisoner, and his family is desperate for his release.
Like Rodriguez, Alfonso wonders why Louisiana’s immigration judges and ICE are denying Cubans their freedom.
His theory is crystal-clear.
“[The judges] don’t care if you’re telling the truth,” Alfonso said. “They’re just racist and want you out of here.”