Congressional Democrats are looking to restart a federal program aimed at reuniting Cuban families in the United States as the application processing ceased years ago following the U.S. government personnel in Havana falling mysteriously ill.
A bill was filed on Wednesday by Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and New Jersey Rep. Albio Sires would greenlight the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program.
The program allows eligible Cuban Americans to bring family and loved ones with them to the United States while they wait for their visas to be returned. “The Cuban people live under a brutal authoritarian regime, with little control over their fate,” said Wasserman Schultz in a statement, “so we must do all we can do to offer them a path to expeditiously and legally immigrate to the United States.”
The initiative comes at a time when the U.S. is expected to announce an increase in consular staffing at its embassy in Havana to assist in addressing the years-long visa backlog. A top U.S. State Department official told Congress last month that the plan looked toward sending several temporary consular officers in order to boost the speed at which visas are being processed.
Right now, there is a backlog of an estimated 22,000 applications for the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program. Even though U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services has said the program is still in effect, visa processing has not taken place for several years.
Last month, another group of Florida Republicans asked President Joe Biden to restart the consular services in Cuba to prioritize human rights and pro-democracy activists as well as people with urgent medical or humanitarian needs.
ARTICLE: ELIZABETH HERTZBERG
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: SUN-SENTINEL.COM