NEW PUBLICATION DOCUMENTS CUBAN-AMERICAN FAMILY SEPARATION
Love, Loss and Longing: the Impact of U.S. Travel Policy on Cuban-American Families
“What are the real family values when we keep families away from each other?” Reverend Mari Castellanos, Cuban American, Washington, DC
U.S. travel policy has separated Cuban Americans from their families on the island for nearly 50 years, but new regulations put in place in 2004 reached a new height of cruelty for the Cuban-American community. In 2004, the Bush Administration reduced the number of times Cuban Americans are permitted to visit their families in Cuba from once every year to once every three years, with no exception for family emergencies. The new restrictions also narrowly redefined family to include only grandparents, parents, siblings, and children; other relatives are no longer considered “family.” Family is a key part of the Cuban culture and the U.S. government’s restrictions on family travel and remittances have done irreparable harm to families in the U.S. and in Cuba.
The book, Love, Loss and Longing: The Impact of U.S. Travel Policy on Cuban-American Families, is a joint publication of the Latin America Working Group Education Fund and the Washington Office on Latin America, based on a photo exhibit that has toured the country. The exhibit opened in the Rayburn House Office Building in March 2006 sponsored by the bipartisan House Cuba Working Group. After the opening, the exhibit’s national tour began in Arlington, VA, and continued on to: Baltimore, MD; Minneapolis, MN; Dayton and Yellow Springs, OH; Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Devon, PA; Jackson Hole, WY; Oakland and Sacramento, CA; Newark, NJ; several venues in Chicago and suburbs, IL; Miami, FL; Cambridge, MA; Crystal City, VA; New York, NY; Bloomington, IN; and Mobile, AL.
The photo exhibit’s extraordinary showing at Tinta y Café in the heart of Little Havana in Miami illustrated that Cuban Americans want to see change in U.S. policy towards the island. Contrary to long-held perceptions about the Cuban-American community in Miami, the majority of Cuban Americans support engagement with Cuba and an end to the travel ban. A 2007 Florida International University poll of Cuban Americans in south Florida found that 64 percent favor lifting the current restrictions on family travel and returning to the pre-2004 regulations; 65 percent support beginning dialogue with the island; and an amazing 55 percent support allowing unrestricted travel to the island. This year’s FIU poll found the lowest support for the embargo among Cuban Americans ever recorded.
Although the family separation caused by U.S. policy is undoubtedly the cruelest part of the travel ban, countless other Americans are also impacted by the travel restrictions. Universities across the U.S. have lost licenses to send students to study in Cuba; farmers are losing out on potential sales of agricultural products worth about $300 million annually; humanitarian organizations have lost licenses to support ordinary Cubans and those in special need; religious organizations are now unable to fulfill their global mission or commune with their faith partners on the island; and the United States has lost an opportunity to play a positive role in this time of transition for the island.