By Delvis Fernández Levy
Posted February 13 2006
Every human being has the legitimate right to contact family and loved ones -- a man foundation through which one acquires the values and nurturing that makes us who we are. It does not matter what conditions of war or peace may exist between nations, each human being has that right.
Policies by the Bush administration have redefined family, excluding aunts, uncles, and first cousins. It is absurd to have to ask permission to visit a family member in Cuba, and beyond that be limited to a single visit in a three-year period through a truly cumbersome and inhumane process.
Limitations have also been imposed on the material aid one may give to our families, thus creating conflicts within ourselves when raised as respectful, law-abiding citizens. In dealing with family aid or assistance, many Cuban-Americans think their only option is to travel to Cuba through a third country, hiding when one returns, or claiming that one is fulfilling a religious mission.
There are cases of family members who fall gravely ill and die, and then the administration prevents them from visiting the burial site to mourn with loved ones, because a family visit took place within the previous three years. Emotional conflicts generate terrible dramas for people with families in Cuba.
President Bush explains that the ill-conceived legislation aims to eliminate all U.S. currency entering Cuba.
But this is simply unacceptable to anyone with family on the island. It is a cruelty that must be denounced and be known by the entire world, in particular by the vast majority of Americans who believe they live in a free and democratic country. Nevertheless, when one explains the restrictions imposed by the administration, people appear perplexed because it is difficult to think that such restrictions happen in their own country.
Cuban immigrants are burdened with double suffering, because if one were free to travel -- when and wherever one decides -- family separation would be less painful; but when that is forbidden, a conflict, a trauma arises that may be quite detrimental to one's emotional stability. The immigrant leaves a place and family where he or she was nurtured with love from infancy, carrying countless memories, frozen in time, deprived of internal evolution. He or she may remember better the birthday of someone not seen in decades than the birthday of family members presently near. It is terrible to accept one's reality if on top of that, a law is engendered to increase pain, the situation then becomes frustrating and unbearable.
But sadly, the U.S. media appear distant from that reality. The truth about Cuba is distorted, blaming only the Cuban government for the policy of family separation. But if the press were to pay attention to the human drama around them, it would bring light to confused people who would otherwise be ready and willing to repeal such an absurd policy.
Most U.S. citizens may trace their history to a voluntary or involuntary diaspora, but the trauma of family separation is part of all humanity. It does not matter where one comes from, a Cuban-, Mexican- or African-American family, we demand respect for our right to family ties. An African woman in Rwanda, separated from her son, feels as much pain as a Cuban mother with a son on the other side of the Florida Straits.
We must rise up in defense of our families. We can and we have the right to be part of that humanity, because humanity itself is our gran familia.
Delvis Fernández Levy is president of the Cuban American Alliance Education Fund, which advocates expanded trade, especially of food and medical supplies, and more liberal visitation policies.