MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – A Cuban man found hiding in the belly of an airplane that flew from Havana to Miami over the summer was released from jail Wednesday, less than 24 hours after he was granted asylum by an immigration judge.
Local 10 News reporter Hatzel Vela was outside the Krome Detention Center as Yunier Garcia, 26, was released from jail.
Garcia was quickly whisked away in a car.
Vela later met up with him at Miami International Airport as Garcia was greeting his cousin who had just arrived to Miami from Atlanta to see him.
He said he is still trying to process all of this and is very thankful to the community and to God.
His cousin, Daymaris Diaz, said she is very happy that Garcia is finally free.
"We won because of his testimony. You know, his testimony was so riveting," Garcia's attorney, Willy Allen, later said.
Allen said Garcia's testimony was a description of his life in Cuba and his harsh reality, which is now a thing of the past.
Authorities said a ground crew member unloading luggage at Miami International Airport found Garcia on Aug. 16.
Garcia described the area he was hiding in as a dark spot where he could barely breathe. He said he was scared to death during the journey.
Allen said he expects the U.S. government will appeal the judge's decision. They have 30 days to file that appeal.
On Sept. 11, Garcia attended a final immigration hearing that lasted around 3 1/2 hours.
Allen said his client testified for about 90 minutes.
He argued that Garcia could have faced harsh repercussions if he was returned to Cuba.
"If he were to be sent back, he would be persecuted because of the way he left Cuba," Allen said.
Allen said attorneys representing the U.S. government were opposed to Garcia getting asylum, at one point calling him a delinquent who broke the law. They pointed out that thousands of Cubans have been deported to Cuba and have not been jailed, tortured or killed.
That's not necessarily the case this time around, Allen said.
"He has a position or job of trust," Allen said. "He violated that trust. Our expert witness emphasized that for Cuba, that is considered to be treason, and that he could be looking at the death penalty."