Proposed bill would allow some Cubans to receive consular services at Gitmo

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Representatives María Elvira Salazar and Mario Diaz-Balart met on Monday morning to talk to reporters at the Miami International Airport about a bill proposal to help reunite Cuban families.

Salazar and Diaz-Balart unveiled their plan to help reactivate the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program, which was in effect with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

“We believe that Cubans and their families should be able to reunify,” Diaz-Balart said.

The CFRP allowed eligible U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to petition for parole for their family members in Cuba. The U.S. started the program in 2007. USCIS officials have not issued invitations to participate since September 2016 and suspended the program for security reasons in 2017, according to USCIS.

Diaz-Balart and Salazar said they want to change that. They aim to cut the red tape that has entangled 22,000 Cubans who have their hopes on the CFRP program to be reunited with family in the U.S.

Without consular services in Havana, applicants had to fly to either Mexico or Guayana for interviews. Diaz-Balart and Salazar are proposing that the CFRP in-person interviews resume at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, also known as Gitmo.

“There is precedent for this and in Guantanamo, we can send as many consular people as we want,” Diaz-Balart said. “We can keep them secure.”

Diaz-Balart and Salazar said they expect House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats to support the legislation, which they are planning to file on Tuesday.

“Opening up Guantanamo is a fantastic idea,” Salazar said. It’s a property that belongs to the United States. It’s on the island of Cuba.”

Even if the U.S. military base were to be used for CFRP interviews, the final step of the application process, the Cuban government is still able to shut down the roads leading to the base.

“It’s a perfect moment for the Castro regime to demonstrate that they really care about the Cuban family by opening up a place that will be safe for the American personnel and for the Cuban family to go and finish their paperwork,” Salazar said.

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About the Authors:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba. 

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.