A judge ruled in favor of Moran’s request for asylum on October 11 after a hearing that spanned the length of more than four hours. Moran’s asylum request was submitted on the grounds that he was the subject of torture and persecution for his work as an independent journalist in Cuba who criticized his government. Upon his release, Moran plans to bring his family to the United States and hopes to work with the Hispanic press and pursue human rights activism focusing on the safety of journalists in Cuba.
Concerned that his life would be at risk if he faced deportation, RSF and Fundamedios USA began providing Moran with support when he was first detained after crossing the US-Mexico border in April. Legal organizations Ballard Spahr and American Gateways provided Moran with pro-bono legal assistance throughout his trial, and organizations including RSF and the Committee to Protect Journalists provided expert testimony during his asylum hearing.
"I want to thank the United Nations, to Reporters Without Borders, to Fundamedios USA, to the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba, to the Ballard Spahr and America Gateways lawyers who helped me and to all the Hispanic press in the United States,” Moran said after he was granted asylum.
“RSF is deeply relieved that Serafin Moran Santiago has been granted asylum in the United States, though we are frustrated that he had to spend six months in a Texas detention facility before being released,” said Margaux Ewen, Director of RSF’s North America bureau. “Cuba is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist, and it brings my colleagues and I great peace of mind to know that he can now work and live safely from the United States instead.”
“We are happy for Serafin Moran’s release and that justice was done in his case. No journalist whose life is at risk should be denied asylum to the USA, a country that considers freedom of expression one of its most important rights, and we hope this case can function as an example for other American courts in how to deal with cases of exiled journalists seeking political asylum,” said Dagmar Thiel, Director of Fundamedios USA.
An independent journalist for multiple media outlets in Cuba, Santiago told RSF he was targeted by the authorities for covering political issues, including police misconduct and human rights. Santiago eventually fled Cuba for Guyana and then Mexico, where he stayed in a migrant refugee center for a little more than a month until the Cuban Embassy in Mexico began to target him. Seeking political asylum, he approached the US border in April and was immediately detained by ICE.
Cuba continues to be the worst offender of freedom of the press in Latin America, ranking 172nd out of 180 countries in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index. The United States ranks 45th, after dropping two places in 2017.