A federal judge in Philadelphia is a refugee from Fidel's Cuba
After the death of Fidel Castro, at the age of 90, many Cubans have started the nine days of mourning for which he was the leader of their country. However, for some Cuban-Americans, his death represents rather the symbolic end of one of the most prolific characters in history.
His record of human rights abuses, as well as the fact that he destroyed the country's economy in his half-century, was the catalyst for a massive exodus of more than a million Cubans to the United States.
In the early 1960s, more than 14,000 Cubans were sent to the United States alone under the so-called "Operation Peter Pan". In November 1960, Father Bryan O.Walsh, director of the Catholic Offices for Welfare in Miami, created a program to provide air transportation for Cuban children to the United States.
The operation was intentionally kept secret, for fear that it would be seen as an anti-Castro political initiative. At that time, it was speculated that the new government of Fidel Castro planned to send thousands of children to labor camps in the Soviet Union. This rumor raised the alarm in many families that did not have sufficient resources to be able to emigrate of the island.
The majority of Cuban children who arrived in Miami in the 1960s were between 12 and 18 years old and came from middle and lower class families. Among these children was the current District Judge Eduardo Robreno, who learned of the existence of the 'Operation Peter Pan' through a friend of the family. Robreno understood that once he stepped on American soil, he would be welcomed into an orphanage or an adoptive family.
For many years I talked to my parents and although I think their hearts said no, their brains said yes, "said Robreno. "I think they understood that if I stayed in Cuba my life would be full of dangers."
When Robreno came to the United States, he was housed in a foster home in Miami and later in Northampton, Massachusetts. There he finished high school and then attended college and did higher education in Massachusetts.
As a boy, Robreno always dreamed that one day he would be a lawyer. Thanks to his part-time jobs he had in winter and working full-time in the summer, Robreno was able to finance his own studies, which at that time cost about $ 100 a semester.
When he turned 30, Robreno postulated for Rutgers Law School in Camden, NJ. Since 1977, he has worked in the Philadelphia region, working first for the Anti-Trust division of the Justice Department, and later in the private sector. It was not until 1992 that he received a phone call that would change the course of his life:
President George H.W. Bush called Robreno to inform him that he proposed his nomination to the Senate. Today, after 20 years as a Federal Judge for the Eastern District, he is still proud to be the first Latino to become a federal court in Pennsylvania. He feels that his story is one of millions of immigrant stories that have left his country in search of freedom and opportunities.