by Joe Siegel
Yariel Valdés González, a contributing writer for the Washington Blade, is seeking asylum in the United States.
Valdés, 28, legally entered the U.S. on March 27 through the Calexico West Port of Entry between Calexico, Calif., and Mexicali, Mexico. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) transferred him to Mississippi a few days later.
Valdés, who hails from Cuba’s Villa Clara province, graduated from Universidad Central Marta Abreu de las Villas in 2014 with a degree in journalism.
|Yariel Valdés González
He explained in a Blade story that the reasons he is requesting asylum are based on his experience working for Vanguardia, a newspaper published by the Cuban Communist Party in Villa Clara. Valdés began to contribute to independent media outlets in 2015.
Valdés said he signed a letter against the “censorship and harassment” of independent media outlets in 2016. The Cuban Communist Party then began to harass him and his “life became hell.”
The State Department’s 2018 human rights report notes the Cuban government “does not recognize independent journalism.” A report that Freedom House released in 2017 notes Cuba “has the most repressive media environment in the Americas.”
Valdés told the Blade that an ICE officer has determined his asylum claim is valid.
He had his first appearance before an immigration judge on May 23. He told the Blade his second hearing was scheduled to take place on June 13, but Valdés said he does not know when ICE will release him on parole.
Valdés remains in ICE custody while activists voice their outrage over the Trump administration’s overall immigration policy.
He first described the conditions at Bossier Parish Medium Security Facility in Plain Dealing, La., during a telephone call he made to the Blade on May 3 after ICE transferred him from the Tallahatchee County Correctional Facility, a privately run prison in Tutwiler, Miss.
“The conditions are bad,” said Valdés on May 31 during another telephone interview from Louisiana.
Valdés told the Blade “there is no privacy” and he is sleeping on a “thin mattress. It’s like a prison, not an immigration center,” he said.
A Blade story published on June 5 noted: “The Southern Poverty Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana last week filed a federal lawsuit against the Trump administration over the denial of parole to hundreds of asylum seekers who are in ICE custody in Louisiana and Alabama.
A press release the two organizations issued on May 30 notes the New Orleans ICE Field Office, which oversees the facility in which Valdés is currently detained, granted parole in only two of the 130 asylum cases it heard in 2018. The press release also notes the lawsuit “calls attention to the impact of the dehumanizing treatment — especially the excessive use of solitary confinement and inadequate health care — received daily in immigration prisons, many of which are operated for profit.”
IN THE NEWS