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  1. #1
    Senior Member Brian503a's Avatar
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    Cuban Performers Are Granted Asylum

    www.nytimes.com

    July 22, 2005
    Cuban Performers Are Granted Asylum

    By JOHN M. BRODER
    LAS VEGAS, July 21 - Ending an arduous yearlong journey, 50 Cuban performers were granted political asylum this week after what is believed to be the largest group defection of Cubans in American history.

    The musicians, singers and dancers of the "Havana Night Club" revue, which recently changed its name to the "Havana Night Show," celebrated the official statement on Thursday and planned to appear together in another venue on Friday, the local Social Security office. There they hope to begin the process of becoming permanent residents and, ultimately, United States citizens.

    "This has been pretty amazing for all of us," said Jose David Alvarez, 24, the host of the stage show. "The United States of America has always been a myth for Cuban young men like me and a lot of my colleagues in the company. It has always meant freedom for us, because in Cuba, it's kind of different."

    Members of the troupe have been performing in Las Vegas since announcing their decision to seek asylum in November, and the last one was notified by American authorities Thursday that asylum had been granted. The troupe had defied Cuban government orders in seeking visas to perform in the United States.

    A year ago this week, Cuban officials raided the Havana building where the group rehearsed and seized thousands of dollars worth of equipment. They ordered the group to disband and told them they would no longer be permitted to perform. Their founder and artistic director, Nicole Durr, who is German, was arrested and expelled from the country.

    But after many delays and pleas to top leaders in Havana, Cuban authorities relented and allowed the troupe to leave Cuba for a series of shows last summer and fall at the Stardust Resort and Casino here. Members of the company defected en masse on Nov. 15. Their contract to perform at the Stardust has been extended until Sept. 4.

    "It's historic that 50 artists defected together and made the sacrifice to leave their families at home," said Ms. Durr in an interview before leading a rehearsal in a warehouse east of the Las Vegas airport. "Some of them have wives and children that they haven't seen in a year."

    She said that now that the musicians have been granted asylum, they can begin the process of getting family members admitted to the United States.

    Ms. Durr said that this week she gathered the troupe together to turn over to them the government documents. "I told them, 'Now it's official. This is something you can't buy. This paper is your destiny.' "

    A spokeswoman for United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the successor agency to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, said the government does not comment on asylum cases. "Because of the very nature of asylum, we are not allowed to discuss asylum cases at all," said Marie Sebrechts, public information officer in the Southern California office.

    Pamela Falk, a law professor at the City University of New York, has been the Havana group's legal adviser. Ms. Falk met a number of the performers as they arrived in Mexico from Cuba and escorted them into the United States. She has served as their advocate at the State Department and the immigration service and has enlisted the aid of politicians and celebrities on their behalf.

    "It's a great moment," Ms. Falk said. "It's been a very long road."

    She said she believed the case was the largest mass defection in the history of Cuba. The troupe, she said, contained a fascinating cross-section of Cuban society, ranging in age from 19 to 38 and representing many of the island's racial groups - Afro-Cuban, mulatto and European.

    Ms. Falk said that there was little question that the artists would eventually receive asylum because of the privileged status Cubans have under American immigration law, dating to the takeover of the island by Fidel Castro in 1959. Under the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, any Cuban who arrives in the United States, whether legally or illegally, is presumptively granted permanent residency. But the political asylum process often takes years, Ms. Falk said, and never have 50 defectors been granted asylum together.

    Mayelin Montes, 24, who goes by the name Lala, said that the official notice of asylum was a huge relief after a year of uncertainty.

    "Now we have like a piece of space in this country," Ms. Montes said. "We fought so hard, and now we are very happy."

    When the troupe first arrived, they stayed in a seedy motel and lived from week to week. But as their act became a popular at the Stardust, most of the performers moved into an apartment complex about 20 minutes west of the Strip where they have air-conditioning, dishwashers and use of a swimming pool for the first time in their lives, said Ms. Durr, who serves not only as producer and musical director but also as den mother to the young performers.

    She said that the artists were paid well, but declined to say how much they make. "Let's put it this way, a lot of dancers in town want to audition for my show," Ms. Durr said. "But what am I going to do with a Russian?"

    Mr. David, in addition to serving as host of the stage show, said he also performed in musical numbers. "I dance, I sing, I eat some fruit, too," using a lighthearted Cuban expression for an all-around performer.

    He said he was already beginning his study of American history for the citizenship examination. He said there were interesting parallels between the Cuban and American revolutions, although he said he preferred the outcome of the American revolt. He said he intended to continue to challenge society, using his art as an expression of rebellion.

    "An artist will always be a revolutionary in the whole sense of the word," Mr. David said, "because he's always trying to change things, but through culture, not politics."
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  2. #2
    Senior Member Judy's Avatar
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    Oh great.

    One wants to change things and be a musical revolutionary.

    Change things where? Here or in Cuba?

    Just what we need.

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  3. #3
    Senior Member JohnB2012's Avatar
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    Re: Cuban Performers Are Granted Asylum

    She said that now that the musicians have been granted asylum, they can begin the process of getting family members admitted to the United States.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Judy's Avatar
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    Right, JohnB....
    A Nation Without Borders Is Not A Nation - Ronald Reagan
    Save America, Deport Congress! - Judy

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  5. #5
    JackSmith's Avatar
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    Yes, these poor Cubans are given asylum. They are from a poor nation BUT they probably have enough to eat and the schools are pretty good in CUBA! Now, some immigrants from the Dominican Republic, an island like CUBA, get on boats trying to reach Puerto Rico 100 miles away. Puerto Rico is a US territory its people are US CITIZENS. IF these Dominicans can get to Puerto Rico ILLEGALLY they can get to New York maybe someday. These Dominicans have DEMOCRACY yet are just as poor if not poorer than these Cubans from a similar island.

    MY POINT? We let the Communist Cubans in but will not trade with Cuba yet we do with COMMUNIST CHINA! Poor Dominicans are deported while the Cuabn can stay. It makes NO SENSE!

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