EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (CN) – A Cuban child-sex offender cannot be held in prison under the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, a federal judge ruled. Within 14 days, Pablo Santiago Hernandez-Arenado must be released from prison, where he has been since 1984, U.S. District Judge J. Phil Gilbert ruled. Gilbert’s decision may end a prison limbo that has existed since 1987.
Hernandez-Arenado arrived in the United States as part of the Mariel boatlift in 1980, and the U.S. Attorney General granted him immigration parole. His parole was revoked in 1984 after he was convicted of sexual assault on a child younger than 13 in New Jersey.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service detained Hernandez-Arenado to deport him after his prison sentence ended in 1987, but the United States will not deport people to Cuba, and in many cases, including this one, no other country will accept them.
In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Mariel Cubans could not be held indefinitely pending deportations that were not likely to happen in the foreseeable future.
Hernandez-Arenado, who was being held in Leavenworth, filed a habeas corpus petition seeking release. A judge found in his favor and ordered him released within 14 days. But before that happened, Ivonne Bazerman, acting chairwoman of the Bureau of Prison’s Certification Review Panel, certified that Hernandez-Arenado is a sexually dangerous person and is subject to commitment under the Adam Walsh Act.
Hernandez-Arenado argued that the Adam Walsh Act does not apply to him because he is not in Bureau of Prisons custody.
The Adam Walsh Act provides for the commitment and confinement of a person who is in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons, or who is in the custody of the Attorney General or against whom all criminal charges have been dropped solely for reasons relating to his or her mental condition.
Gilbert found that applying the Adam Walsh Act to Hernandez-Arenado’s case would extend the law beyond its intended reach. Gilbert wrote, “While the Court is gravely concerned with the danger to the public’s safety posed by releasing a person like Hernandez into society, there is simply no authority … to detain him further.”