Congressman steps in to help Cuban mother fighting for asylum

The KVUE Defenders story "Minna's Journey" sparks reaction from U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett.

U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett had strong words in reaction to the KVUE Defenders story, “Minna’s Journey.”

“Having explored the situation with Minna and Miguel, I’m very concerned about the trauma caused to them,” Congressman Doggett told the KVUE Defenders in an interview from the U.S. Capital in Washington, D.C.

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Minna Abreu Garcia is a Cuban wife and mother fighting for asylum for her family here in the U.S. after she and her husband, Miguel Bruce Varano, fled a life of persecution in Cuba. Their son remains imprisoned by the government there.

Minna and Miguel asked for asylum together when they reached the U.S. Port of Entry in Laredo. But immigration officers separated the two after they crossed the bridge from Mexico into the U.S. Minna was sent to a detention center in Taylor and was recently released on “parole” and allowed to stay with a sponsoring family in Round Rock, Texas. She proved she suffered persecution and torture in Cuba and was not a risk to the community. Miguel was sent to Miami, Florida, where he remains detained with a $15,000 bond. Minna's attorney says the couple should have been paroled from detention together.

Minna told KVUE she hoped "that they listen to us, that they see the evidence, that they help us to establish ourselves in this country."

Congressman Doggett says his office is not only working to help in Minna’s case, but to stop the Department of Homeland Security from separating migrant families when they cross the border.

He and 75 other lawmakers signed and sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security asking for its policies and initiatives and a change in its process.

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When Minna and Miguel left Cuba, Cubans were automatically allowed a path to permanent residency in the U.S. But that policy changed during their grueling, year-long journey.

“It’s very troubling, considering those who come here seeking refuge, recognizing the Statue of Liberty and haven from the horrors abroad,” said Congressman Doggett.

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Doggett and the 75 other members of Congress sent a letter to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen stating, separating families “contradicts the most basic of American family values ..." and "is especially unnecessary given that ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) should turn to humane, less costly, alternatives to detention.”

They requested a copy of the DHS’s policies and initiatives on migrant family separation.

“We can’t accept all of them, but when someone comes with a valid claim of persecution, we shouldn’t divide husband from wife, mother from child,” Doggett said. “It’s just wrong.”

Minna is currently living with the family of James Johnson and Angela Huber in Round Rock. They agreed to sponsor and support her and Miguel while they went through the legal immigration and asylum process.

Minna says she feels weakened by the separation from her husband.

“I feel sad. Sometimes I feel I don’t have the strength … not even continue living, to see me in this conditions,” Minna said.

Minna has been able to get legal help. Miguel has not and does not have the means to post bond.

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Congressman Doggett said his office hasn’t been able to speak to Miguel or government officials in Florida but will continue to work to bring Miguel and Minna together.

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KVUE reached out to Congressman John Carter, who represents the district where James Johnson and Angela Huber live. He responded with this statement:

“One of the most important responsibilities I have as a representative is assisting my constituents when they need help with a federal agency. I’m happy to have my office look into the issue further to ensure that they’re receiving fair treatment and appropriate protocol is being followed.”

Minna has a court hearing in San Antonio Monday.