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Truckonauts Update
Thursday, June 09, 2005   By: Juan Paxety

Case in federal court

Lawyers went to federal court yesterday (Wednesday) asking a judge to let the latest truckonauts stay in the U.S. Thirteen Cubans were found by the Coast Guard piloting a 1948 Mercury taxi through the Florida Straits. The Miami Herald reports:

Four of the migrants taken into custody hold valid visas from the U.S. government, but Cuba had refused to allow them to leave the island, said Ramon Saul Sanchez, head of the Democracy Movement in Miami.

The rest, if repatriated to Cuba, face persecution, he said.

''After they have risked so much and have persevered so much to seek freedom in this country, it would be an injustice to deny them the possibility,'' Sanchez said.

Under present U.S. policy, Cubans who make it to shore in the U.S. are allowed to stay as refugees - those picked up at sea are sent back.  The policy was changed by the Clinton administration and continues under the Bush administration.

Among the refugees is a Cuban doctor.

Sanchez said among the migrants on this latest trip is a doctor named Nivia Valdez Galvez. She was given a U.S. visa last year, but was not allowed to leave because the Cuban government requires five years of service for medical personnel. Her son, Pablo Alonso Valdez, 16, was prohibited from leaving because he is nearing the age to serve in the Cuban military, Sanchez said.

Also accompanying Galvez: her husband, Rafael Diaz Rey and her other son, David Valdez, 11.

Relatives say this is Rafael's third try to escape aboard a floating car. He tried to escape about 10-years ago on a 1947 Buick. He tried again last year.


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