In the Cuban Diaspora, you meet all sort of good people with many an interesting story about their struggle for freedom. But as a case in Denver this week reminds us, ethnic diasporas are also places where bad actors go to hide. It is a lesson that Cuban-Americans are starting to grapple with in very serious ways as more and more human rights abusers sneak into the United States under our way too generous immigration laws.
Kefelgn Alemu Worku was a prison guard at Ethiopia’s notorious political jail, Higher 15. The facility was used during the infamous Red Terror campaign carried out by the Communists from 1977-1978. How many died? It ranges from close to 100,000 to as much as 500,000. Who knows how many more were tortured. Worku is one of probably many exiles involved in the tortures and killings. America is a beacon for freedom, not a haven for human rights abusers.
“The risk that this country [the United States] becomes regarded as a safe haven for violators of human rights is such that the maximum sentence is required,” U.S. District Judge John L. Kane said at sentencing this week. Kane also said that there was undeniable evidence that Worku had a role in war crimes. The relatively harmless lifestyle he has had in the United States does not change the character flaw of psychopathy.” Worku got off easy. He was sentenced to 22 years in prison for violating numerous U.S. immigration laws.
This is a good test case for former Cuban regime officials hiding out in Miami, and right here in Virginia, who committed similar crimes in Cuba during the earlier part of the Communist Revolution, soon thereafter, and to this day. The case of Ediberto Mederos comes to mind. In 2003, a bill was introduced in Congress to posthumously strip Mederos of his U.S. citizenship. Mederos never saw the inside of a cell; however, there are many others still living free in the United States.
While Congress debates immigration reform, they should focus on (1) repealing or amending the Cuban Adjustment Act, and (2) clarifying current law with respect to individuals involved in human rights abuses, anywhere in the world. Cuba transition planning must include an accounting of these matters. More victims will come forward, especially as the veil of fear and intimidation is replaced by the light of freedom. By the way, the same cases can be made against Venezuelan officials as well, as they are breaking our immigration laws with impunity.
The Worku case in Denver, Colorado, and several others like it that have gone through our justice system, are excellent reminders to human rights abusers hiding out in the United States that your time will come. You cannot hide from the wheels of justice. Sooner or later, you’ll be exposed and will have to face the consequences of your actions, no matter where or when you did it.