Meese Told to Free 1,100 Cubans or Show Reason to Hold Them
Eleven federal judges on Thursday ordered Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III to free nearly 1,100 Cuban refugees whose deportations were canceled or show why they should remain in prison.
Also named in the order, which requires action by Aug. 5, were Louis Richard, district director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and Jack Hanberry, warden of the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary.
The judges, all from the U.S. District Court in Atlanta, began discussions about the Cubans on May 20, when Cuban President Fidel Castro canceled an agreement to accept the return of up to 2,746 refugees whom the Reagan Administration wants to deport.
“Because these detainees again face indefinite confinement as a result of Cuba’s suspension of the accord,” the order read, “the court has concluded it would be unjust to delay further this proceeding.”
More than 1,800 Cuban refugees were at the prison awaiting deportation when the pact was canceled, but the order issued Thursday specified only 1,300 detainees who had petitioned the court for release last December.
Of the petitioners, 201--all either convicted of a crime or treated for mental illness--were deported before the agreement was rescinded by Castro the day that Radio Marti went on the air, beaming U.S. broadcasts to Cuba.
Some of the refugees have been at the prison since arriving in the United States five years ago when Castro allowed an exodus through the port of Mariel. Others were convicted of crimes after their arrivals, served their sentences and then were brought to Atlanta to await deportation.
In addition to ordering the government to show cause or release the refugees, the judges set up a system to guarantee each man an attorney and to expedite processing of the cases.
The judges are asking attorneys to accept up to 20 Cuban clients apiece in exchange for nominal reimbursement.
To speed court cases, 10 of the 11 judges will be involved in hearings on the release petitions and will assign about 30 magistrates to make recommendations on release or retention of the detainees.