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‘What is happening is inhumane’: 100,000 Cubans in limbo as U.S. visa backlog grows

Updated: Jul 25, 2021

When María Sulay López arrived in the United States in 2014, she assumed her son in Cuba would quickly get a visa to join her. But almost seven years later, the breast cancer patient still doesn’t know when they will be together.

As she gasped for breath from an oxygen tank, a result of a permanent tracheotomy, López said she can no longer work and just wants a solution.

“I’ve been waiting a long time,” she said on a recent afternoon. “And look at the condition I’m in.”

The case is among some 100,000 filed by Cubans and Cuban Americans in the U.S. hoping to reunite with family members on the island which are on hold as visa processing at the U.S. Embassy in Havana remains suspended. As the Biden administration reviews its Cuba policy, some in the exile community are clamoring for a quick resolution. The U.S. government withdrew most of its staff in 2017 after numerous diplomats fell ill from a mysterious ailment whose cause is still unknown but some suspect was an attack from a foreign adversary.

According to a U.S. State Department report, 78,228 family-based immigration claims are pending at the National Visa Center, which processes approved petitions, as of last November. Cuba is now among the 10 countries with the highest number of pending cases, according to the report.

That figure does not include those who are waiting for interviews at the embassy, a State Department official told the Miami Herald. Meanwhile, another 22,000 are on standby through the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program, which provides a fast track for some petitioners with relatives in the U.S.

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