Venezuelan Jockey Seeking Asylum Falls Into ‘Political And Administrative Black Hole’

by | 12.28.2018 | 4:22pm
Eduard Rojas, left, at Santa Anita with fellow Venezuelan Gonzalo “Chino” Anteliz Jr. (Photo Courtesy of Gonzalo Anteliz Jr.)

When he refused to throw races when so instructed by the Venezuelan mafia, professional jockey Eduard Rojas Fernandez knew he needed to leave the country. The corruption in Venezuelan horse racing has been well documented: one-time leading Venezuelan trainer Antonio Sano was kidnapped for refusing to fix races, and now trains in the United States.

Rojas managed to escape to Trinidad and Tobago, initially. After riding in Canada, where he suffered a severe accident, the jockey moved to California to be with his girlfriend and apply for a pro-athlete visa. Rojas racked up over $36,000 in legal fees and was given conditional approval in July of 2018 to ride at Los Alamitos, but the United States wound up denying him the visa; describes how the 117-pound rider eventually found himself ferried across the Mexican border in the trunk of a car, only to be detained by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

Rojas then asked for asylum, citing the political unrest in his home country, but has yet to have his official hearing on the matter. The article goes on to describe that Rojas “fell into a political and administrative black hole only partially of his own making”; the hearing should have taken place within ten days of his arrest, but instead, two weeks into his captivity Rojas fell ill with pneumonia. According to the article, ICE failed to provide appropriate treatment and Fernandez has continued to be moved between multiple different facilities.

“ICE has never returned a single phone call,” said Fernandez' immigration attorney Bonnie Smerdon. “The last time I called I asked, 'Is he alive? Because you might be shipping a body around.' The woman said, 'Well, he's not dead or it would say so in the system.'

“ICE has absolutely no oversight. They can ship people all over with no one to answer to.”


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