An immigration court has ruled that a Cuban who admitted spying for his homeland may be deported from the United States, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service said today.

The U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals ruled that Jorge Luis-Rodriguez, a Cuban citizen arrested in April 1996 by FBI and INS agents in Miami, could be deported under laws barring "any activity to violate any law of the United States related to espionage."

The INS said Luis was an agent of the Cuban Intelligence Service. When he was arrested, authorities said he was holding instructions from his superiors and the names of several Cubans living in the United States identified as members of a well-known exile group opposed to the government of Fidel Castro.

They said the documents were written on water-soluble paper and concealed in a wallet with a secret compartment.

In a news release, the immigration service said Luis admitted in subsequent interviews that he was an intelligence agent.

An immigration judge dismissed the deportation case in 1996, saying that Luis was not secretly gathering sensitive or defense-related information. But the INS appealed, saying he violated the U.S. Foreign Registration Act, which focuses on espionage, making him subject to deportation.

The Board of Immigration Appeals sustained the INS's appeal.

The INS said the ruling is binding on immigration courts throughout the United States and called it a significant victory that expands the government's ability to deport aliens involved in espionage-related activities.