The Miami Herald
Sep. 18, 2002

9 Cuban Defectors Granted Parole

  Associated Press Writer

  WASHINGTON (AP) - Nine Cubans who defected to the United States during Pope John Paul II's visit to Canada this summer were ordered released Wednesday from Immigration and Naturalization Service custody.

  The nine had been held in several immigration detention facilities in Buffalo, N.Y., since leaving the July 28 Catholic conference in Toronto.

  After learning of their detention Wednesday, Commissioner James Ziglar asked for an immediate review of their cases and determined that they would be paroled
  pending resolution of their immigration status, the INS said in a statement.

  INS spokesman Bill Strassberger said background checks have been done on the nine people to ensure they are not a danger to the community and that they have
  family sponsors.

  After leaving the World Day Celebrations conference in Canada, the nine Cubans made it to border crossings near Buffalo and entered the United States. They then presented themselves to INS officials.

  The release of the Cubans is a "recognition of the Cuban Adjustment Act," Strassberger said.

  Under the 1966 act, Cubans admitted or paroled into the United States are eligible to apply for permanent residency after they have been physically present in the
  United States for a year. Under the law, most Cubans who defect to the United States and are not interdicted at sea are released if they are not deemed dangerous.

  "This does not represent a change in policy in the handling of Cubans arriving in the United States without visas. The U.S. government continues to encourage the safe, legal and orderly arrival of Cubans to the United States through normal immigration procedures," the INS said.

  Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla, had been working with the Cubans' families to secure their release.

  "It was the right thing to do," she said. "It should have been an immediate release, but at long last they can face freedom."