|Yariel Valdés González
by Fred Kuhr
Yariel Valdés González, the Washington Blade contributor from Cuba who had been in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody for a year, has finally won asylum in the United States. He was released from ICE custody in Ferriday, La., on March 4, 2020.
Blade International News Editor Michael K. Lavers picked González up from the River Correctional Center, a privately run detention center in Louisiana. A day later, Lavers and González flew to Miami so that he could be reunited with his aunt and uncle. He now lives with them in the Miami suburb of Cutler Bay.
“I really feel that I am alive now,” González, 29, told Lavers in the Blade. “It is a wonderful feeling to feel free and to be able to take control of your life and above all knowing that you will not be persecuted again because of your ideas or your work.”
González entered the U.S. on March 27, 2019, through the Calexico West Port of Entry from Mexico. He requested asylum based on the fact that he was persecuted in Cuba as a journalist. That led him on a long and winding road, being bounced from detention centers in California, Mississippi and Louisiana. He was actually granted asylum last September, but that ruling was appealed.
While in detention, González interviewed other LGBTQ asylum seekers he met and documented the conditions inside ICE facilities. He told the Blade, for example, that his hands, legs and waist were shackled every time he was transported by ICE. He also said he and others were often subjected to “racist and xenophobic abuse,” and that detainees who fall ill are placed in solitary confinement.
But now, González wants to move forward and leave the past behind him. “The only thing I want to do now is to start over again from scratch,” he told the Blade, “getting rid of everything negative in my life in order to focus on my new future and on all of the opportunities that I have in this country with the support of the thousands of people who have shown their love and solidarity with me.”
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