Five Cubans with criminal records left the United States Friday for their homeland in the first deportation of Mariel boat people since Cuban prisoners rioted last year to protest an agreement to return them to Cuba.
A U.S. Marshal's Service airplane, carrying about 50 people, took off from the Birmingham airport at 10:55 a.m. Security was tight, with the five Cubans, shackled in handcuffs and guarded by armed agents, led one by one to the plane.They earlier had been taken to the airport from the federal prison at Talladega, where they had been held pending a final ruling on deportation.
The flight had been scheduled for Thursday but was delayed when Cuba asked for more time to prepare to receive the five, three of whom lost a series of court fights in their effort to avoid going home.
The Supreme Court, by a vote of 8-1, cleared the way Friday for the deportations. Justice Thurgood Marshall was the lone vote to grant an emergency request by the three to remain in America. There was no other comment by the justices.
On Thursday, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy denied without comment an emergency application from the three for a stay of repatriation. The day before, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court in Atlanta also had rejected their plea.
The other two Cubans ticketed for the return flight did not oppose deportation.
U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemon earlier in the week rejected an appeal by the three that he overturn their deportation. Clemon is expected to rule in the next few days in the cases of 10 others, who also have been held at the Federal Correctional Institution at Talladega, 60 miles east of Birmingham.
The 15 were among 114 of the Cubans placed at Talladega after the prison riots.