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White Lies

by NPR

On the morning of August 21, 1991, a group of Cuban detainees took over a federal prison in Talladega, Alabama, and demanded their freedom. But how did they get here? And what became of them after? In season two of NPR's Pulitzer-finalist show, we unspool a decades-long story about immigration, indefinite detention, and a secret list. It's a story about a betrayal at the heart of our country's ideals. And in charting a course to our current moment of crisis at the border, we expose the lies that bind us together.
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Copyright: Copyright 2019 NPR - For Personal Use Only

Episodes

Taking Cover

49m · Published 06 Apr 11:15
NPR's Pentagon Correspondent, Tom Bowman, receives a shocking tip from a trusted source: A deadly explosion during the Iraq War was an accident—friendly fire, covered up by the Marine Corps—and the son of a powerful politician may have been involved. Listen to the full story in NPR's Embedded podcast.

The Excludables

1h 4m · Published 09 Mar 11:00
In our final episode of the season, we start researching the names on the secret list of 2,746 Cuban excludables. What we find confirms many of our suspicions about the arbitrariness of how the U.S. government created the list. Our reporting takes us — where else? — to Cuba, to finally track down the men on the roof and hear them tell their own stories. What had they hoped to find in this country and what had they found instead? Finally, our journey takes us to one last interview in a high rise in Vancouver, Canada, where we hear from the man who led the uprising at Talladega, and made the decision to take to the prison's roof to display banners made from bedsheets that read, Pray for Us and Please Media: Justice, Freedom, or Death. Want to hear the first episode of Embedded's next series a week before everyone else? Sign up for Embedded+ at plus.npr.org/embedded.

The List

48m · Published 09 Mar 10:55
Since we began reporting this story, we've been after a list. A secret list. On it are the names of 2,746 people whom the US government deemed excludable, including the men on the roof. The government has kept this list so secret that at one point it went so far as to classify it. None of the Mariel detainees knew if their name was on the list or not. In fact, nobody knew what names were on the list. Until now. In Episode 7, the story of a list that sparked uprisings, separated families, and changed the trajectory of U.S. immigration policy. And the story of what we learned when we finally got our hands on it. Want to hear the next episode of White Lies a week before everyone else? Sign up for Embedded+ at plus.npr.org/embedded.

The Trial

41m · Published 02 Mar 10:50
In Episode 6, we sneak into the graveyard of the Atlanta federal penitentiary with a radical peace activist to learn more about what happened in the prison in late 1984. A peaceful protest by detainees held in the Atlanta pen resulted in a violent crackdown, and one of the detainees, a man named Jose Hernandez-Mesa, was charged in federal court with inciting a riot. We tell the story of his trial — and the surprising verdict that began reshaping public opinion about the Mariel Cubans who were being detained. Want to hear the next episode of White Lies a week before everyone else? Sign up for Embedded+ at plus.npr.org/embedded.

The Pen

43m · Published 23 Feb 11:00
On May 18, 1980, a man named Genaro Soroa-Gonzalez arrived in Key West from the port of Mariel. With no family waiting to sponsor him, he was sent by plane to a resettlement camp at an army base. There he was interviewed by the INS and, a few days later, he boarded another plane, this one bound for the federal prison in Atlanta. But wait - he'd committed no crime, so why was the US government detaining him? And how long could they hold him? In Episode 5, the story of Genaro Soroa-Gonzalez and the beginning of the indefinite detention of Mariel Cubans. Want to hear the next episode of White Lies a week before everyone else? Sign up for Embedded+ at plus.npr.org/embedded.

The Pen

43m · Published 23 Feb 11:00
On May 18, 1980, a man named Genaro Soroa-Gonzalez arrived in Key West from the port of Mariel. With no family waiting to sponsor him, he was sent by plane to a resettlement camp at an army base. There he was interviewed by the INS and, a few days later, he boarded another plane, this one bound for the federal prison in Atlanta. But wait - he'd committed no crime, so why was the US government detaining him? And how long could they hold him? In Episode 5, the story of Genaro Soroa-Gonzalez and the beginning of the indefinite detention of Mariel Cubans. Want to hear the next episode of White Lies a week before everyone else? Sign up for Embedded+ at plus.npr.org/embedded .

The Entry Fiction

54m · Published 16 Feb 11:00
When President Carter promised to welcome the men and women arriving on the Mariel boatlift with "an open heart and open arms," he had referred to them as refugees. But technically speaking, they weren't refugees. They were classified as entrants, an immigration status with a peculiar legal standing in the United States. While entrants are physically allowed to enter the country, legally they're still at the border, asking to come in. Their presence in the country is known as a legal fiction — specifically, the "entry fiction." So even as Cubans were disembarking boats in droves through the summer of 1980, they were officially still floating off the coast of Key West. And this immigration status followed them to where they went next: an army base in rural Arkansas. In episode 4, the curious case of the militarized border in the middle of the Ozark Mountains. Want to hear the next episode of White Lies a week before everyone else? Sign up for Embedded+ at plus.npr.org/embedded.

The Rumors

51m · Published 09 Feb 11:00
During our reporting, we heard one story over and over again: that Fidel Castro had emptied his prisons to fill the boatlift. It's a story that's been told so often and with such conviction that of course it must be true, right? But what if this was more theater than history? What was happening in 1980 in Miami and throughout the country that made this story so compelling? Why did it feel so true to so many people? In Episode 3, we go to Miami to find out. Want to hear the next episode of White Lies a week before everyone else? Sign up for Embedded+ at plus.npr.org/embedded.

The Boatlift

49m · Published 02 Feb 10:58
The story of the men on the roof didn't start with that prison takeover in 1991. It didn't start when they were detained in federal prisons. And it didn't start when the government made a secret list of their names in 1984. Instead, it started in the spring of 1980, with one of the largest refugee crises in American history: the Mariel Boatlift. Want to hear the next episode of White Lies a week before everyone else? Sign up for Embedded+ at plus.npr.org/embedded.

The Men on the Roof

45m · Published 26 Jan 14:00
It all started with a photograph. A photograph from 1991 of a prison takeover in rural Alabama. A photograph of a group of men on the roof of that prison holding a bedsheet scrawled with a message: "Pray for us." In the first episode of the new season of White Lies, hosts Chip Brantley and Andrew Beck Grace go searching for answers to the questions raised by this photograph. Who were these men? What on earth had made them want to take over that prison? And what became of them after? As they search, they uncover a sprawling story: a mass exodus across the sea, a secret list, and the betrayal at the heart of this country's ideals. Want to hear the next episode of White Lies a week before everyone else? Sign up for Embedded+ at plus.npr.org/embedded.

White Lies has 21 episodes in total of non- explicit content. Total playtime is 16:30:54. The language of the podcast is English. This podcast has been added on February 22nd 2023. It might contain more episodes than the ones shown here. It was last updated on April 5th, 2024 16:19.

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