“I am the father of a wonderful 7-year-old boy, who is struggling against a horrible condition called body dysmorphic disorder, associated to his autism. He requires especial attention 24 hours a day. Today, my biggest dream is that my son, Jorge, can see his grandmother again, and that she can reunite with her family.”
This is the beginning of a petition by Jorge Caula, posted on Change.org, requesting that the U.S. Embassy in Cuba grants a humanitarian visa to the grandmother of Caula’s only child, who has suffered from multiple conditions since he was born.
In less than a month, the petition has been signed by more than 110,000 people, with the hope that the U.S. government listens to the plea and intercedes for the grandmother, who lives in Havana.
“We know that seeing his grandmother again is going to be good for Jorge, and for the entire family,” wrote Caula in the petition. “If his grandmother could be with him, the struggle against his condition would be much easier. Sadly, the U.S. Consulate in Cuba has denied her a visa four times.”
“We are a Cuban family living in Miami. My wife and I do all we can to take care of our son, but we need more help. It is unbelievable that his grandmother, who has visited Europe four times and has always returned to her country, is now rejected by the United States. The reasons for this discrimination are absurd: they claim she is a potential immigrant who will remain in the United States.”
This is not an isolated case. Thousands of Cubans on both sides of the Florida Straits have seen their hopes to see a family member for the last time frustrated when either the Cuban or the American consulate have denied them visas.
Resentment and the separation of many Cuban families are the final outcome of the migratory policies of both governments.
The trend doesn’t seem to be changing now that the two governments have given steps towards a rapprochement.
For the grandmother, Maria Elena Cabeiro Acosta, 62, the situation makes no sense. She does not understand why they won’t give her a non-immigrant visa to let her spend time with her family.
Cabeiro has travelled to Europe several times, because she has residency in Spain. She has returned to Cuba every time.
She is terrified of those visa interviews at the American Embassy, she told OnCuba.
Cabeiro gets so nervous that she can barely remember what they have asked her the four times she has been there, or what she has said.
“It’s a traumatic experience that lets you with the impression of having done something wrong and the fear to be forever branded as a potential immigrant, just because you failed to understand what they were asking,” she said.
None of the documents she submitted with her application were of any help, including letters signed by doctors from Miami Children’s Hospital which included all the details of the case; proof of previous trips to Spain; or the fact that her own mother is very old and lives in Cuba.
The Press Office of the American Embassy gave OnCuba the following reply:
“In reply to the request for an interview made by OnCuba, I inform you that the U.S. Embassy cannot publically comment on visa applications by individual applicants.”
We asked Cabeiro if she hadn’t considered the family reunification program. This is what she said:
“First, that option does not suit me because I don’t want to go to live in the United States. I only want to help my daughter, son-in-law and grandson. On the other hand, my mother is very old, and everything I have is here, in Cuba, my country.
“Also, the reunification program is not an option for us right now, because my daughter only has residency in the United States, not citizenship. It would take more than five years to be able to use that option. And then it might be too late.
“If they gave me the chance to sign some kind of document saying that I cannot stay there, that I have to go back to Cuba every certain period of time, and that I would be deported if I failed to meet those terms, I would not doubt for a second to take that deal – if that’s what it takes to help my grandson and my family.”