Freedom: Young pilots who escaped Cuba in daring hang glider maneuver granted U.S. asylum
July 12, 2023 8:59am
Updated: July 12, 2023 8:59am
Two Cuban migrants who escaped the island in a motorized hang glider on March 25 and landed in Florida were granted political asylum by an American immigration judge, reported Cuban journalist Daniel Benitez.
Pilots David Lopez Alfonso and Ismael Hernandez Chirino left Cuba in an ultralight hang glider that belonged to the Cuban Aviation Club at around 8:05 a.m. from Tarara, located in the municipality of Habana del Este.
The migrants used the motorized hang glider to cross the 90-mile stretch (145 kilometers) from Cuba to Florida, landing safely at about 10:30 a.m. at Key West International Airport.
Once at the airport, they were handed over to the U.S. Border Patrol for processing, County Sheriff's Office spokesman Adam Linhardt confirmed to the local press.
The Cuban dictatorship, through an official note from the Cuban Aviation Club, described the two men as "deserters,” calling the act a "clear violation" of Cuban airspace. As a result, the regime asked the "corresponding international authorities" to "apply to these individuals the sanctions corresponding to the seriousness of the case and the return of the stolen equipment."
After the arrival of Lopez Alfonso and Hernandez Chirino in the United States, the families of the two pilots spoke to the press to urge U.S. officials to allow them to stay in the country.
Laura Hernandez Chirino, Ismael's sister, told Telemundo 51 that the family was unaware of their plans before they took off, but asked that they not be returned to Cuba out of fear that the regime would target them for their actions.
"If they are sent back, the problem they are going to have is beyond words. It doesn't compare with anything. The problem they are going to have is going to be gigantic, they will never be able to do anything with their lives," the pilot's sister from Havana explained.