From a letter sent to FFI from YHA. His current whereabouts are unknown.
Greetings to whomever may be interested:
My name is YHA. I left my county of Cuba on the 15th of April, 2019, due to the persecution against me by the authorities of the government of Cuba, known by the initials P.N.R. and Security of State, solely for not being in alignment with their politics or their administrators and at the same time associating with a democratic platform known as "Candidatos por el Cambio" (Candidates for Change (CxC)).
I have experienced racist situations and actions at the hands of officials...
At this moment I find myself detained at La Palma Correctional Center, since I was transferred from the Eloy detention center to La Palma. Here where I find myself detained, I have experienced racist situations and actions at the hands of officials, as they have also violated my rights as an immigrant and also my religious rights. I will give you a summary of some of the occurrences that I have experienced embarassingly.
On the 1st of May 2020, at around 11:30 in the morning, I found myself in my cell accompanied by my cellmate who, like me, is also Muslim. One can observe that, during this month, we celebrate it in our religion as the month of Ramadan, during which us Muslims fast until the sun sets. On that day the official or manager [name withheld] was accompanied by two officers while conducting searches in the building. M.B. Upon arriving at my cell, he found within my waste basket 2 milks and the kosher meals which were mine and my companion's, since during the hours of the day we must not eat. We stored them in ice so that we could aliment ourselves at night. The Officer picked up the food and put it in a bag, and he did so with a mocking tone so that all the detainees could see what he had found in my cell. In that moment, I tried to explain to the companion that was with him why that food was placed there, and he told me with these words that he does not care about the reason and much less about an explanation.
He then picked me up and pushed me up against the wall.
Shortly after, he called us so that we could enter our cell, and since I was annoyed and bothered by the embarrassment he caused and for throwing out our food, I expressed to him, with these words once within my cell, that he had violated and disrespected my religious rights, and it was a deplorable thing to do. In that moment, the Officer started yelling in a loud voice saying that I was threatening him, something that was not true. He told me that he would throw me to the ground and he put handcuffs on me. He then picked me up and pushed me up against the wall.
Afterwards, I was taken to Segregation without any explanation for 21 days, where I wasn't given any papers to appeal, nor was there any investigation of what really occurred, of which I have witnesses who can attest to what really happened. As a matter of fact, I told the captain that was there that day, whose name I do not recall, that he should investigage and look at the cameras, but none of that happened. Of course, because he is a worker for the center and for the same company, everything stayed as is. It was much easier to send me to Segregation.
While I was in Segregation on my final day, case manager [name withheld] appeared before me and he told me that I have to stay for another 5 days, since the building where I was to be transferred to was quarantined at the time, which was not true. I respectfully spoke [with him], saying that I need to speak with ICE in order to ask them why my uniform color was changed and why I'm being taken to a building where I would be surrounded by criminals, drug traffickers, violators and domestic abusers. ICE responded that they are not the ones that determine my change of color or classification. The ones who determine this are the union of behaviour and CoreCivic. This is yet another lie that CoreCivic uses to hide behind ICE, due to the fact that [the officer] tells me that ICE was the entity that determined my color and security level would be changed.
My question ... is why must we be grouped together with criminals and convicts.
This is how they play with one's life in this place. In all this time that I've spent in this facility, to reiterate, I have been surrounded by people who come from prison with a criminal record, even though I do not possess a criminal record in my country or in the U.S.A. My question, like that of many other Cubans that find themselves here asking for political asylum due to problems with the government in our country, is why must we be grouped together with criminals and convicts.
I will describe to you another situation that occurred in this same building where I now find myself. On the 18th of August in the year 2020, in the hours of the morning, I was distributing food just like I do every day, and the detainee [name] withheld] threatened me and tells me for the second time that I am obligated to give him a second plate, since he claims that whenever there are leftovers, I always claim them for myself or give them to fellow Cubans. He said if I don't give him the extra plate, then I would have to suffer the consequences. I tried to verbally explain to him that I was under no obligation, as Officer [name withheld], whenever there are extras, lets those who distribute the food have the extra plates. My companion from cell 201, who also distributes food with me, is a witness to this fact. Ultimately, the other detainee, after having spoken with him in his cell, exited his cell and assaulted me in front of everybody including Officer [name withheld]. The only thing that I did was defend my integrity. This detainee came here after finishing a prison sentence for assaulting a police officer. He is a criminal.
I had to be in Segregation solely because I defended myself against a criminal that threatened me.
Soon afterwards, I was once again taken to Segregation for 5 days, where I was told by Investigator [name withheld] and [name withheld] that I should write a report about what had happened, without giving me a copy of the report or an explanation of how to do it. I had to be in Segregation solely because I defended myself against a criminal that threatened me.
This is an example of an occurrence that one experiences in this detention center, especially when surrounded by criminals. I have sent requests and have even asked via telephone why I must stay here in this edifice, since I am at risk of another incident of being threatened, and as a result, I would face more charges against me even though I come to ask for asylum and I am not a criminal.
This is now turning into a problem in racism and inhumanity.
I have already spent 11 months detained. I have asked ICE to transfer me from this detention center closer to my family since my life is at risk here, and they tell me that due to problems with COVID-19, I can't be transferred. This is another violation that they commit principally against the Cubans. This is now turning into a problem in racism and inhumanity.
I, YHA, with every day that I spend in this place, feel deprived, depressed, and with a state of anxiety due to possibly being a victim all over again of threats, mistreatment, and discrimination.
... the medical assistance is abysmal because they only prescribe Tylenol, Ibuprofen and water in abundance.
I shall elaborate on another subject of this center of detention, La Palma. The nourishment is horrid, as we have spent more than 3 months being given a small box that contains bread and ham that is already spoiled due to the time it has spent in storage. The vegetables sometimes come blighted due to the heat, the bathrooms are filled with mold and the medical assistance is abysmal because they only prescribe Tylenol, Ibuprofen and water in abundance.
I make this known to whomever may be interested: This is a summary of my situation and of the violations that we are submersed in within La Palma Correctional Center, without having mentioned the judges .... that the majority of Cubans are assigned to. These judges never give asylum and offer absolutely nothing but deportation. We beg that you become conscious of our situation, and that you realize that we can't return to our country because we might be incarcerated and even made to disappear. The whole world and even God knows what Cubans experience in our country, since it is no secret that it has been led by a regime of dictatorship for more than 60 years. The economic and social opportunities there are scarce, or lest I say, nonexistent.
Thank you and I hope that you hear my message and are conscious of what we are trying to communicate to you. On behalf of myself personally and in the name of all Cuban and Venezuelan detainees that find themselves here at La Palma Correctional Center.
May God take care of our lives as well as humanity's.