MIAMI – A prominent Cuban activist in South Florida spoke publicly Tuesday about the U.S. government's decision to deny his application for residency.
After 14 years of waiting, Ramon Saul Sanchez said he recently received a letter informing him that his application has been denied. The letter also asks that Sanchez leave the country.
Sanchez said he first applied for permanent residency in 2002 and was interviewed in 2014, but his petition was revoked in March.
He believes the decision is politically motivated as the U.S. and Cuba establish diplomatic relations.
President Barack Obama last month became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Cuba since 1928.
Asked why he waited so long to seek permanent residency, Sanchez said he sought to maintain his status as a political refuge.
Sanchez said he also didn't want the Cuban government to use his citizenship against him.
"I have been arrested many times," Sanchez said. "But I have been arrested for things that have directly to do with my struggle for my homeland."
Sanchez's attorneys said the arrests on his record do not bar him from becoming a citizen.
A joint statement from U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said they "have questions about the timing of the Obama administration's decision to deny Mr. Sanchez's petition for residency, who has been in the United States for 49 years and whose petition for residency has been pending for 14 of those years."
If deported, Sanchez's wish is to return to Cuba, even though he knows the risk associated with it.
"I know that I will be exposed to probably being executed or arrested by the Cuban government and put in prison for the rest of my life, if it lasts that long," Sanchez said.