Daniel Benitez, 49; Cuban Figured in High Court Ruling

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Daniel Benitez, 49, one of two Cubans who prompted the U.S. Supreme Court to ban indefinite detention of illegal immigrants who had served time in American prisons, died Monday in Hialeah, Fla., of an apparent heart attack.

Benitez was among about 125,000 people Fidel Castro freed from Cuban jails who arrived in Florida from the port of Mariel during a six-month boatlift in 1980. The U.S. paroled most of them and gave them legal immigrant status.

But Benitez, because of crimes he subsequently committed in Florida, had his immigration parole revoked. He was sentenced to state prison in 1993 after pleading guilty to armed robbery. He was also ordered deported, but Cuba refused to take him back.


After completing his prison term in 2001 -- the same year the U.S. Supreme Court banned indefinite detention for legal immigrants who had served time for crimes -- Benitez still faced indefinite custody as a criminal illegal immigrant.

He began legal proceedings with Sergio Suarez Martinez that resulted in the Supreme Court’s 7-2 ruling this Jan. 12 extending the earlier decision to several hundred illegal immigrants with criminal records. Benitez was released from custody in October pending the ruling.