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The Cuban man who stowed away on a flight from Havana to Miami fears for his life if the United States deports him back.
He worked as a Cuban government employee. He’s now a deserter.
“I risked my life. I hope they welcome me,” Yunier García Duarte told NBC 6 sister station Telemundo 51. “If they deport me, they’ll torture me.”
U.S Customs and Border Protection investigators said the 26-year-old stowaway was in the baggage cargo area of a Swift Airlines flight that landed at Miami International Airport just after midnight Friday.
A ramp agent encountered the man while offloading baggage, officials said. Witnesses said they heard what sounded like a dog in the cargo area before the man responded, saying he was not a dog and asked for water.
The man was denied entry into the United States and was processed as a stowaway.
“I strongly ask you to evaluate my case,” García Duarte added during the brief telephone interview Monday. “I came here because it is a country of human rights.”
García Duarte, currently held at Miami-Dade County’s Krome Detention Center, worked for Havana’s José Martí International Airport as a baggage handler.
The flight from Havana to Miami takes about an hour to travel over 200 miles. That’s not how it felt for García Duarte.
“For me, it was 25 hours. It was not a one-hour flight. I could barely breathe,” García Duarte said. “Everything was dark, but whoever does not risk does not win.”
García Duarte said his immediate deportation to Cuba was delayed over his apparent fear of returning.
In January 2017, the U.S. ended its “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy of almost automatically admitting any Cuban who managed to reach American soil. Many Cubans are now attempting to enter the U.S. through Mexico.
Immigration lawyer Willy Allen said that stowaways are limited to the process of receiving documentation because they must apply for political asylum. García Duarte’s political asylum claim could be evaluated.
“He is also a deserter. He worked at the airport in Cuba. At least they can listen to him because if he returns to Cuba, he will be imprisoned,” Allen said.