Breaking the Law to Live

My name is José Benito Menéndez del Valle. I was born in April 3, 1947. When I was 21 I was judged in Matanzas by a Revolutionary Tribunal, and accused of having committed a crime against State Security. The court case was number 404 of 1968.

In 1980, through the port of Mariel, I left Cuba with all my family, legally, because I was a former political prisoner.

In 1994 I returned to my country illegally, and I was sentenced with 16 years in prison. I fulfilled the sentence and was released and since then I live without papers. I don’t have an ID card and this stops me from doing all kinds of business. It looks simple but without the ID I can’t look for a job, I don’t have the ration food booklet so I can’t get any of the articles that make up the basic daily food portion allotted to all Cubans. I can not buy medicines, although I suffer from degenerative osteoarthritis, frequent alterations in blood pressure and problems with the prostrate gland. Besides I can not go to the immigration office and file a petition to travel. I want to bring my family together again. My children, grandchildren, nephews, all my family is in the United States and are American citizens.

I offer this testimony because I want to share my experience, and want it to be known. And I also want it to be known that I am not the only person living in this legal limbo that has even kept me from sleeping.

My family helps me, but if it wasn’t for them, I would have to break the law to buy medicine and food. Break the law to live.


~ by Juan Juan Almeida on May 10, 2010.

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