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Cuban men thrown into Louisiana prisons despite legal asylum requests

Suicide. Self-harm. Medical neglect. Isolated in segregation. Quarantined and left without legal counsel.

More than 100 Cuban men who have been left to rot in remote Louisiana immigration prisons have faced these and other hardships since as early as 2017, when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement locked them up.

The SPLC interviewed eight of these men, who told stories of severe persecution in their home country before fleeing to the United States. They all entered the country legally and are seeking asylum the way the U.S. government dictates. All were found to have a credible fear of persecution or torture in Cuba by the asylum officers who screened them upon arrival. None has committed a crime.

Yet they are locked up with no end in sight.

“The cruel irony is that most asylum seekers who follow the law and present at official ports of entry do not have the right to ask an immigration judge for release from custody,” said Laura Rivera, an SPLC staff attorney. “Instead, their only avenue for release is to ask the very agency that confined them, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).”

To help secure the men’s release, the SPLC and the Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative (SIFI) – a project of the SPLC that provides pro bono legal counsel to detained immigrants throughout the Deep South – have partnered with other pro bono attorneys and colleagues at Immigration Services and Legal Advocacy (ISLA). SIFI has also approached federal lawmakers and engaged in public advocacy.

Read the men’s harrowing stories here.

Photo by Silky Shah/Detention Watch Network