Activist Groups Join to Investigate Cuban Immigration Incident

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
July 7, 1999 12:00 am

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MIAMI — The National Civil Rights Movement will investigate allegations of abuse involving the six Cubans who reached U.S. shores at Surfside last month, the Miami Herald reported today.

According to news reports, members of the Phoenix-based organization will travel to Miami to hear testimony and meet with officials of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, police officers, the American Civil Liberties Union, and leaders of civilian and religious organizations.

The group’s investigation was sparked by the clash between the Cubans and Coast Guard officials and Surfside Police officers, as broadcast nationwide on television.

The case of the six Cubans “has allowed the American people to remember that many injustices still are kept silent in this country,” said John de Leon, Chair of the Greater Miami Chapter of the ACLU of Florida.

According to the Herald, the ACLU is examining the possibility of supporting a lawsuit against the authorities.

“This is part of a systematic campaign by the INS against people of Hispanic appearance and origin,” said NCRM President Ramon Gomez.” It is time to end a policy that recriminates those who come here looking for a chance to survive.”

Gomez told the paper that his organization would also consider supporting a lawsuit against the authorities on behalf of the Cubans.

“It would be inhuman and contradictory for the United States to assume the role of defender of democracy and freedom in far-away regions like Kosovo while mercilessly repressing Cubans, Mexicans and other Latin American immigrants who risk their lives in search of the only possible refuge,” he said.

The immigration service’s Miami office did not confirm whether it would meet with the activists. The ACLU called the group’s visit a positive step.

The Coast Guard told the paper that it would release a report on the events at Surfside later this week.

“The case of the rafters has again brought to the foreground the topic of immigrants in the United States,” said Josh Bernstein, an analyst for the Washington-based National Immigration Law Center. “Public opinion is in favor of the rafters. The televised images disturbed many people who didn’t realize that those things continued to happen.”

This is not the first time the ACLU has questioned unfair and unconstitutional treatment directed towards Cubans or Cuban Americans. Last year, when the Pope visited Cuba, the ACLU monitored the federal government’s enforcement of “emergency” restrictions on travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens and residents of Cuban origin in South Florida. Read our release at /news/n012198b.html.

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