Cuban street artist and human rights activist Danilo Maldonado Machado, known as “El Sexto”, was released from US immigration custody and will not be deported to Cuba. On September 20, 2019, a US Immigration Judge found that the Cuban government used arbitrary detentions and imprisonment, beatings and threats against Danilo for expressing his opposition through peaceful and artistic protests. The judge refused to deport him to Cuba because doing so would subject Danilo to a clear probability of persecution.
Attorneys Daniel Diaz-Balart and Inna Shapovalov represented Danilo in immigration proceedings on a pro bono basis. Danilo is widely-admired in the Cuban-American community for his courageous dissent against the Castro regime, and he saw an outpouring of support throughout his immigration detention. Numerous witnesses came forth to testify on his behalf, including a former US Congressman, a journalist and former Cuban political prisoner, a former girlfriend, and Danilo’s English teacher.
Diaz-Balart and Shapovalov presented voluminous evidence of Danilo’s courageous acts of peaceful protest against the Castro dictatorship. This included his performance art where he painted live pigs with “Raul” and “Fidel” inspired by the book Animal Farm, his public call to take to the streets following Fidel Castro’s death, and the faces of Cuban dissident martyrs (Paya, Pollan) tattooed on his body as a permanent expression of dissent. Danilo’s lawyers also presented evidence of the Cuban government’s brutal repression and attempts to silence Danilo. He has suffered 4 arbitrary imprisonments totaling nearly 4 years. There have been beatings, threats and continuous harassment. Diaz-Balart and Shapovalov also submitted evidence that Cuba, to this day, continues to treat all political dissidents with brutality and repression.
Diaz-Balart and Shapovalov overcame vigorous opposition from the attorney for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who argued that Cuba has recently decreased its repression. The Assistant Chief Counsel for ICE wrote that “[T]he Cuban government has changed the way it treats political prisoners in recent years. Fidel Castro is no longer the head of the government, and under the leadership of his brother Raul Castro, the number of political prisoners has decreased significantly, shifting from long-term incarceration to short-term arrest and release”.
Danilo and his many friends and supporters are elated that he is free. Danilo will be living in Miami and focusing on creating and promoting his art, through which he brings attention to the continuing dire human rights situation in Cuba.
The immigration detention was brought about by a temporary restraining order filed against Danilo by a former girlfriend and mother of his child. There is ongoing litigation surrounding the restraining order, child custody and the allegations. Danilo will continue to fight to clear his name and fully expects to see justice and fairness from the US legal system with help and guidance from his attorneys. Danilo is extremely grateful to the United States for the opportunities it has afforded him, and he is committed to fully abiding by all laws, rules and regulations that come with living in the US.
For further inquiries, please contact Daniel Diaz-Balart at Daniel@diazbalartlaw.com