Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services, Inc. (DMRS) is the largest full-service non-profit legal services organization specializing in immigration-related matters serving low-income and indigent individuals and families in El Paso and counties in the surrounding area.
Our mission is “to provide legal services to immigrants and engage in public advocacy and community outreach to advance justice and protect the rights of those we serve in the spirit of gospel values.”
“I left my country to save my own life.”
Luis Omel Valiente Ocana, 37, who is originally from Cuba, was recently granted asylum with the help of Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services Staff Attorney Jesús Güereca and DMRS Legal Assistant María Nájera.
“I’m grateful to DMRS, and especially my attorney Jesus Guereca and his assistant. I’m completely grateful.”
Valiente Ocana was accused of being an oppositionist and attempting to sabotage the Cuban revolution. He was repeatedly taken into custody by police in Cuba and suffered beatings at the hands of Cuban officers, often requiring medical attention.
“He (the police officer) threw himself on top of me and starting hitting my face and told me to respect him. Then he locked me in a cell and I was brutally beaten to the extreme that I was paralyzed and sore. I could not move my left arm and no matter much I begged for medical attention, they never gave me so much as a pill or anything for pain relief. When they let me go, I went to the doctor to get an x-ray and found out I had a detached clavicle,” said Valiente Ocana describing one of the times he was taken into custody and beaten by an officer.
Valiente Ocana left his home country of Cuba on January 31, 2020. His journey to the United States took him through Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico.
After arriving in Mexico, Valiente Ocana was deported back to Cuba where he feared he would die.
“I have a cousin who died in prison in Cuba for speaking out against the government, and that’s what I was scared of. I feared I would return to Cuba and they’d arrest me and I would lose my life just like my cousin did at the hands of the Cuban government,” said Valiente Ocana.
The Cuban government would not accept the deportees, so Valiente Ocana was returned to Mexico City where he was beaten by Mexican immigration officers. He eventually arrived in Juarez, along the U.S. Mexico border, where Mexican federal agents pulled him off a bus and threatened to arrest him if he didn’t pay them money. Valiente Ocana paid them $1,250 pesos, a little less than $60 U.S. dollars. In Juarez he was forced to live on the streets and beg for money, and then he was held up at gunpoint.
“They said, ‘I don’t ever want to see you around here again. If I see you again, I’m going to kill you. I was scared for my life so I asked around and someone told me where I could cross into the U.S.’” said Valiente Ocana.
Fearing for his life and safety in Juarez, Valiente Ocana entered the United States illegally in El Paso, Texas. He was taken into custody by U.S. Border Patrol agents. Valiente Ocana spent 6 months at the Otero County Processing Facility in Chaparral, New Mexico. The ICE facility is about 25 miles outside of El Paso and falls under the El Paso Sector of the U.S. Border Patrol. He was in custody when the Coronavirus pandemic reached U.S. ICE facilities.
“Everyone in there was scared of Coronavirus.”
“I had a bad reaction to the chemicals they were using to disinfect and the skin on my face started peeling,” said Ocana Valiente and added, “Despite all of the precautions everyone took, there were always people getting sick. I thank God that I came out of there healthy, but there were a lot of people who were infected – including some people who slept in my dormitory.”
Valiente Ocana received “Know Your Rights” information provided by the Legal Orientation Program at Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services. LOP Supervisor Jessica Chavira referred his case to DMRS Staff Attorney Jesus Guereca and Legal Assistant Maria Najera.
“I didn’t have the money to pay an attorney so I’m 100-percent grateful to your organization and to my attorney, as well as Jessica who is the first person I spoke with and she’s the one who connected me with an attorney,” said Valiente Ocana
Asylum Granted September 2020
“I felt really happy, I cried…I cried because this is a big deal and not everyone wins their asylum cases here,” said Valiente Ocana describing the moment he learned he had been granted asylum.
“I was comforted because I know I fled my country for a just reason, and I achieved my goal in coming here. I left my country to save my own life.”
“I’m really grateful for my attorney from Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services Jesus Guereca, and I’m really grateful to his assistant Maria because they were the two people who helped me through this.”
Why we need your help
The average case for our removal defense unit is between $1,600 to $2,000. Your donations are changing the lives of immigrants who are in search of a better life. For some, it is the difference between life and death. Their lives are especially at risk as they remain in ICE detention centers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Please help us do everything we can to get them released and reunited with family.