Attorney representing hang-gliding Cuban migrants seeks their release, asylum

POMPANO BEACH, Fla. – It’s been several days since David Lopez Alfonso and Ismael Hernandez Chirino arrived in South Florida in an unusual way.

The two Cuban men used a powered hang glider to fly over the Florida Straits and land at Key West International Airport on Saturday morning.

Immigration attorney Willy Allen is now representing them.

Allen is hopeful they will be released and granted asylum.

“I was impressed…I was impressed by how young they were,” Allen said. “Asylum is never easy. I never take it lightly. Every asylum requires a solid presentation as to what could happen to the individuals.”

Because their dangerous two-hour voyage has garnered much attention, both in the U.S. and in Cuba, Allen believes the men would most likely be persecuted if they were sent back to the island.

“Their (families) have already experienced discomfort,” Allen said to Local 10 News’ Hatzel Vela. “You lived in Cuba. You know what it’s like to feel discomfort in your neighborhood.”

“I think the family is concerned,” he added.

Their journey angered officials on the island. Cuban state-run media reported the glider belongs to the Aviation Club of Cuba and is used for tourism.

The aviation club is denouncing the act, calling it a theft and asking for the men to be punished.

On Wednesday, we saw the aircraft up close as Local 10 News’ Janine Stanwood explained how they got far.

The Federal Aviation Administration was also on site taking pictures.

Meanwhile, the men remain at the Broward Transitional Center in Pompano Beach.

“We’re preparing the first documents to petition the government to release them on parole on their own recognizance,” said Allen.

About the Author:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba.