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In her latest column for the Miami Herald, Fabiola Santiago underlines the crushing reality for many Cuban refugees. Once heralded as heroes who defied Fidel Castro, now Cubans are increasingly denied legal protection and deported by the Trump administration.
Santiago tells a related story. Francisco Verona, an 82-year-old former Cuban political prisoner, applied for citizenship after four decades of living in the U.S. The U.S.. government denied his application. Fabiola Santiago decries this latest outrage.
Santiago’s piece is excerpted below, and available in full here.
What has happened to Francisco Verona after four decades of living in the United States is an apt story for the times.
Between 1978 and 1979, President Jimmy Carter’s administration negotiated with Fidel Castro for the release of some 3,000 political prisoners.
A few were Americans, but most were Cuban.
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One of the freed prisoners flown to Miami was Verona, now 82, a self-described guajiro from western Pinar del Río, a simple country man who in his youth conspired against the communist takeover of the island and was jailed three times.
In Miami, men like Verona were embraced as heroes.
The U.S. government, which plotted for decades to oust Castro and fomented insurrection and regime change, did too. Actions of sabotage, fleeing the country, and helping and hiding conspirators were seen as patriotic, not criminal.
“I remember when we went to el hipódromo [Hialeah Park] for an event and all the people were cheering [the political prisoners],” says Verona’s daughter, Edelyn.
Yet — after living a quiet life of family and hard work in his brother’s small construction company for 40 years, away from any limelight, political or otherwise — the Trump administration’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has denied Verona citizenship.
He doesn’t understand why.
“The American government got me out of prison and brought me here,” Verona says. “I conspired in Cuba, not here.”
…And — despite President Donald Trump’s rhetoric calling Bay of Pigs veterans “heroes” — Cubans aren’t even getting fair treatment. As it is with the mass deportation of Cubans to a human rights-violating state, denying citizenship to a former political prisoner flies in the face of Trump’s hard-line Cuba policy.
How can a government bureaucrat question the morality of a man who fought a dictatorship — and, based on that fact, deny him a last wish to become a full-fledged American?
If anything, Verona is a man of courage.
Denying him the end-of-life wish of citizenship is shameful.