DIFFICULTIES SURROUNDING FAMILY VISITS TO THE CUBAN FIVE IMPRISONED IN THE UNITED STATES
During these years of unjust imprisonment, the delay in the granting of visas to the relatives of the Cuban Five, imprisoned in the United States since September 12, 1998, has, in most cases, prevented these relatives from visiting the Five more than once a year on average, despite the regulations of the different prisons allowing monthly visits.
VISA’S DENIALS TO OLGA SALANUEVA AND ADRIANA PEREZ
Olga Salanueva’s family has been divided since 2000. For all these years she has been seeking a visa to enter U.S. territory for the sole purpose of visiting her husband, Rene Gonzalez, who is presently serving a 15 year sentence at the U.S. Penitentiary in Mariana, Florida, since September 12, 1998.
The couple has two daughters born of the marriage: Irma, born in 1984, and Ivette, born 1998 in the U.S. The family resided together in the U.S. until 2000, when their youngest daughter was an infant, and they have not seen each other as a family unit since that time.
Rene Gonzalez’ conviction was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit on September 2, 2008 and the petition for certiorari was denied by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 15, 2009. Upon finishing his 15 year sentence, Mr. Gonzalez will be required to complete 3 more years of supervised release.
On August 16, 2000, two years after her husband was arrested and was awaiting trial, Olga, who was a lawful permanent resident, was taken into custody by U.S. Immigration, imprisoned during 3 months and deported to Cuba in November of that year. Although she had ample legal grounds to appeal this decision, she didn’t because her two young daughters, one of them being an infant, had been left without both their parents while she was detained.
These tragic events have caused serious psychological damage to Ivette, who was just a baby when her family was torn apart.
In an effort to reunite her family, Olga unsuccessfully attempted 9 times to apply for visa. Every time her visa was denied. The U.S. Government has alleged she is a threat to the national security of that country.
On her last attempt on July 16, 2008, Olga was advised that she was permanently inadmissible to the United States.
On December 18, 2009, US Department of Homeland Security denied Olga Salanueva her humanitarian parole request to enter in the territory of the United States with the only purpose of visiting her husband. Olga’s request, submitted on October 23, 2009, was endorsed by letters from important religious and human rights organizations, among them the World Council of Churches, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA and the Cuban Council of Churches, as well as Amnesty International. The denial failed to mention the reasons for such decision.
Olga has never been charged or convicted of any crime in the U.S. nor anywhere else in the world. Needless to say her family visit will in no way implicate the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.
Adriana Pérez has not seen her husband, Gerardo Hernández, for more than 11 years. They have been married since 1988.
During all these years Adriana has been trying once and again to get an authorization by the U.S. Government to visit him, who is serving a sentence of two life terms plus 15 years in California, U.S. She has submitted multiple requests for visas -10 in total- and all these applications have been denied for a wide range of reasons without any justification whatsoever.
The U.S. Government alleges she is a threat to the national security of that country.
The single time she was granted a visa, in 2002, she was denied entry to the United States after arriving in Houston, Texas, and returned to Cuba without seeing her husband.
The United States Immigration authorities arbitrarily held Adriana for 11 hours at the airport and revoked her visa without offering any explanation to justify the decision to deny her entry into the United States.
Adriana’s last two visa applications were denied on January 23, 2009 and July 14, 2009, pursuant to Section 306 of the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Reform Act of 2002, which permits the denial of non-immigrant visas to nationals of countries considered terrorists by U.S. government unless the Secretary of State judges that they do not pose a risk to the national security of the United States.
This is a humanitarian question. She asks only that she be allowed to visit her husband and be able to communicate with him face to face.
Adriana has never lived in or visited the United States and has never been charged or convicted of any crime in the U.S. nor anywhere else in the world. Needless to say her visit will in no way implicate the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.
Numerous clergy and religious organizations have come forward to offer their support and assistance, including accompanying Olga and Adriana in visiting their husbands in case permissions to enter US territory were granted.
The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA; The World Council of Churches; The World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Cuban Council of Churches have all expressed such strong support for Olga and Adriana that they have volunteered to accompany them in their visits. The Archbishop of Athens and Primate of the Orthodox Church of Greece, conveys their support of Olga and Adriana’s plea for visas to visit their husbands.
Organizations around the world have pledged their compelling support to Olga’s and Adriana’s claim to visit their husbands, citing their and their husbands’ rights.
Amnesty International has issued numerous letters, public statements and reports, calling for Olga and Adriana to be issued a travel document to visit their husbands. In a letter addressed to U.S authorities on January 11, 2006 Amnesty International said:
“We are concerned that the long-term, permanent denial of visits from their immediate families has caused substantial hardship to René Gonzáles and Gerardo Hernández beyond the penalties imposed. The denial of visits has also reportedly had a detrimental impact on family members. We believe that, in the absence of a clear and immediate threat posed by such visits, this measure is unnecessarily punitive and contrary both to standards for the humane treatment of prisoners and to states’ obligation to protect family life.”
Parliamentarians all over the world have also been claiming for visas to Olga and Adriana to visit their husbands. 187 members of the European Parliament signed a written declaration in 2007 (0089/2006) calling on the U.S. Government to grant the necessary visas to both wives. Other MEPs have issued letters in 2007, 2008 and 2009 with the same claim for what they call a clear humanitarian question.
Members of the U.K. House of Commons, of the German Bundestag, of Congress of the United States, House of Representatives and other Parliaments of the world have also written in support of Olga and Adriana’s request to visit their husbands.
The Mayors of these 13 cities in California (Albany, Berkeley, Canyon Lake, Fairfax, Huntington Park, Maywood, Pasadena, Port Hueneme, Richmond, Salinas, Santa Cruz, Sebastopol and Winters) support the request for Olga and Adriana to be allowed to visit their husbands, stating: “The two women should be able to visit their husbands on humanitarian grounds. People in California and in the United States, as well as around the world, are aware of their situation. Their case is under appeal, and there is no justifiable reason to deny these families the right to visitation.”
The leaders of three of the most notorious trade unions in the United States: the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the United Steel Workers and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, have addressed letters to the U.S. Government asking to grant visas to Olga and Adriana.
On March 8, 2009, the International Commission for the Right of Family visits issued a letter to the U.S. Attorney General, urging that Olga Salanueva be issued humanitarian parole in order to visit her husband. This letter was signed on by 108 prominent members of the international community, including Danielle Miterrand and Nobel Peace Prize recipients Rigoberta Menchu and Adolfo Perez Esquivel, as well as other celebrities, government officials, academics, and human rights activists.
- On 25 July 2002 the United States Government prevented her from entering the United States, after granting her a visa, without offering any explanation to justify the decision to deny her entry into the United States.
- On April 2003 the US Government denied her a visa invoking section 212 (f), according to which the President could suspend the admission to US territory to any foreign person, if he considers that it is against the national security interests.
- On October 2003 the US Government denied her a visa, invoking section 212 (a)(3)(A) of the 1996 Immigration and Nationality Act that prevent the entry to that country to someone who might aim at the overthrow of the United States Government by force, violence or other unlawful means.
- On April 2004 the US Government denied again the visa, invoking section 212 (a)(3)(A) of the 1996 Immigration and Nationality Act.
- On January 2005 the US Government denied her a visa invoking section 212 (f), according to which the President could suspend the admission to US territory to any foreign person, if he considers that it is against the national security interests.
- On October 2005, the United States Government denied an entry visa to Adriana Pérez, invoking on that occasion section 214 (b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The United States authorities alleged that Ms. Adriana Pérez might try to become an immigrant.
- On October 2006, for the seventh time in the past six years, the United States Government refused Adriana Pérez permission to enter its territory, by virtue of section 212 (f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. On that occasion, the concern that Adriana Pérez might become an illegal immigrant was not mentioned; instead the United States authorities invoked the clause that they use to deny entry visas to officials of the Government of Cuba, namely, that their visits might be detrimental to the interests of the United States.
- On September 12, 2007 the US authorities denied her the visa arguing that Adriana was linked to supposed espionage activities under section 212(a)(3)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
- On January 23, 2009 the US Government denied again the entry visa (a response that was pending since July 16, 2008), alleging this time Section 306 of the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002, establishing that no non-immigrant visa shall be issued to any alien from a country that is a state sponsor of international terrorism unless the Secretary of State determines, in consultation with the Attorney General and the heads of other appropriate United States agencies, that such alien does not pose a threat to the safety or national security of the United States. In making a determination under this subsection, the Secretary of State shall apply standards developed by the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Attorney General and the heads of other appropriate United States agencies, which are applicable to the nationals of such states.
- On July 15, 2009 the US authorities denied again the visa by virtue of section 306 of the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002. In this occasion, they expressed that the information in possession of the State Department does not indicate that Adriana overcomes the presumption of inadmissibility.
- On August 2009 Adriana Pérez asked again for visa permission. That request has not been answered yet.
- On 23 April 2002, the United States Government refused to grant a visa to Ms. Salanueva and declared her application inadmissible under section 212 (a) (3) (B) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, thus implying that she was a terrorist.
- On 25 September 2002, the United States Government again refused to grant a visa to Ms. Salanueva without providing any explanation whatsoever.
- In April 2003, Ms. Salanueva was again denied a visa, this time on the grounds of section 212 (f), whereby the President may suspend the entry into United States territory of any alien if he finds that such entry would be detrimental to the interests of national security.
- In October 2003 and April 2004, the United States Government again denied Ms. Salanueva a visa, and on these two occasions cited different grounds for denying the visa. Ms. Salanueva was no longer inadmissible because she was a “terrorist” but because she was now presumed to be an intelligence agent, saboteur, or someone who might aim at the overthrow of the United States Government by force, violence or other unlawful means, as can be inferred from the wording of section 212 (a) (3) (A), which was invoked to justify the refusal to grant a visa.
- In February 2005, Ms. Salanueva was again denied a visa.
- In November 2005 the United States Government denied an entry visa to Olga Salanueva, invoking section 212 (a) (9) (A) (ii) relating to persons who have been deported. On that occasion the authorities at the American Interests Section in Cuba told Ms. Salanueva that she should not request a visa again since it would not be granted.
- On September 12, 2007 the US authorities denied her the visa again using the argument that Olga was linked to supposed espionage activities under section 212(a)(3)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act and also and also they referred to Section 212(a)(9)(A)(I) about deportation.
- In the last denial- July 16, 2008 – Olga was specified in writing that her “ineligibility has a permanent character.”
- On December 18, 2009, US Department of Homeland Security denied Olga Salanueva her humanitarian parole request to enter in the territory of the United States with the only purpose of visiting her husband. Olga’s request, submitted on October 23, 2009, was endorsed by letters from important religious and human rights organizations, among them the World Council of Churches, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA and the Cuban Council of Churches, as well as Amnesty International.