Restrictions on Traveling from Cuba to the US
Using every possible trick in the book and then some, the State Department and OFAC have virtually stopped all travel from Cuba to the US, especially for musicians and artists who are deemed to be making money for Castro: "Since most cuban artists are compensated by the cuban government, they are rightly considered to be its employees... Work financially enriches the regime, not the artist."
The trend started with Bush's election and with a law passed by the Senate on 4/18/02 which made travel by Cuban Citizens to the US much more difficult. As of the end of May, 2002, reports started to come in of the FBI making calls to US hosts of Cuban academics and artists asking such illuminating questions as "Is this person a terrorist?" The point is not to investigate but to chill.
None of this has changed under Obama.
|Ned Sublette, 10/3/02|
I received an e-mail this morning from independent filmmaker Bette
Wanderman, whose documentary "A Cuban Legend: The Story of Salvador
González" opens at the Cinema Village in Manhattan on October 11.
Salvador González is a Cuban painter who is well known for his use of
African-derived imagery in public spaces in Cuba. He has created numerous
outdoor murals, in Cuba and internationally, including works in Philadelphia
His masterwork, known to pretty much everyone in Havana, is his painting of
every available surface at the Callejón de Hamel, an outdoor performance
space in an alley in the barrio of Cayo Hueso. It is probably the most
frequently photographed piece of contemporary public art in Cuba, and was
featured on the cover of Los Van Van's "Llegó Van Van," a Grammy winner in
2000. At http://www.afrocubaweb.com/salvadorgonzalez/salvadgonz.htm you
can find a page about his work, which includes an interview by Pedro Pérez
Sarduy with the following comment about the Callejón de Hamel: "Its walls
express in one form or another the feeling of African art, that is the
presence of African culture in our country. You will find here pieces of
sculpture, overhanging roofs with many colors, poetry, images. A house that
could be a temple, or that is a temple for this community. It is Black
poetry that is in each house, which is at the same time a temple."
González was to travel to New York for the film's premiere. According to
Bette Wanderman, his letter of invitation was sent on August 1. "We
thought we had plenty of time to meet requirement of 21 days for a visa. Salvador
has been here four times previously with that time frame for a visa."
Not this time. We can now add him to the growing list of visa casualties
in what we can appropriately describe as the Bush II administration's assault
Visa Red Tape Is Tying Up Arts Venues, 10/1/02
|Denying performers entry to the U.S. results in a wave of
One official says the cost could reach millions of dollars nationwide.
By MIKE BOEHM, LA TIMES STAFF WRITER
An epidemic of canceled appearances by foreign performers unable to secure
visas to enter the United States because of stepped-up post-Sept. 11
security checks has brought growing frustration and a mounting threat of
economic losses for performing arts presenters.
The cancellations have been considerable in Southern California alone over
the past two weeks, affecting artists from the Middle East, Cuba and Japan.
The roster includes the Whirling Dervishes of Damascus, who had been
scheduled this weekend at the World Festival of Sacred Music in Los Angeles;
the Toronto-based Persian pop singer Googoosh, who was to have performed
Saturday at Staples Center; and the Afro-Cuban All-Stars, who have canceled
their entire 20-date U.S. tour, including a Nov. 14 show at UCLA's Royce
Also failing to secure visas in time were the members of Hanayui, an
all-female folk music and dance ensemble from Japan that was to have
performed Saturday at the Aratani Japan America Theatre in Los Angeles.
The cancellations started cropping up this summer, ranging from Iranian
theater performers unable to appear at New York's Lincoln Center to a Welsh
harpist and Russian concert pianists who had been booked by classical music
While government officials maintain they are taking steps to rectify the
situation, members of the arts community remain dubious and are organizing a
campaign urging Congress to focus on the problem.
"The goalposts are being constantly moved" when it comes to the time
required to secure artists visas, complained David Sefton, director of
UCLA's heavily international performing arts program. "There is a sense that
it is completely unpredictable."
Others are pointing to more philosophical concerns.
"Art is not terrorism, art is the antidote to terrorism and hate," said
Mickey Hart, former drummer of the Grateful Dead and a leading figure in
world music circles, who said he intended to start raising the issue
publicly with his performance at Sunday's closing ceremony for the World
Festival of Sacred Music at the Greek Theatre. "The idea is to expose this
travesty to the American people."
Sefton estimated that each cancellation costs his program $5,000 to $30,000
in advertising and promotional costs absorbed and profits forgone, which
becomes multiplied as arts presenters nationwide absorb the losses.
"If 10 tours go down in a year, you're talking about millions of dollars in
hits across the country," he said. "We're looking at huge losses none of us
are in a position to sustain."
The Afro-Cuban All-Stars, an offshoot of the popular Buena Vista Social
Club, have previously traveled the U.S. and were scheduled to return with a
17-city tour, beginning Nov. 1 in Madison, Wis. Many of the shows were
planned for large universities that, in many instances, serve as primary
presenter of cultural programming in their regions.
The Enhanced Border Security and Visa Reform Act, enacted in the spring,
places Cuba on a list of seven nations considered to be "state sponsors of
terrorism." The other nations are Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya and North
Korea. The law requires that visa applicants from those countries undergo
extra background checks, which can prolong the process.
Another post-Sept. 11 measure requires a 20-day waiting period and
heightened security checks for would-be travelers from 26 other countries;
the U.S. State Department will not say which are on the list, but arts
presenters say they appear to be predominantly Islamic countries in Asia and
The long-standing visa process for artists involves two steps: First, the
Immigration and Naturalization Service must determine that a performer is
highly distinguished or culturally unique--and therefore not snatching work
from Americans who could do it just as well. Then the performer must get
clearance from an overseas U.S. Consulate.
New, more stringent security checks are being applied at both steps along
the way to determine whether applicants are on watch-lists compiled by
intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
State Department spokeswoman Kelly Shannon acknowledged last week that the
system was clogged at first but said things should improve because of
"better processing procedures" installed in recent weeks.
"The system previously wasn't designed to handle the new security measures,"
she said. "It took some time to put them in place, but we're able to move
them through now without compromising security."
But many arts presenters already have lost confidence in the system and fear
more problems. Four members of a loose-knit consortium of world music
presenters and behind-the-scenes operatives say they will start a campaign
this week to raise public awareness of the bureaucratic logjams that are
preventing or calling into question many scheduled performances.
"We are organizing at a national level to try to offer reasonable
alternatives that accommodate national security but avoid the trauma and
hardships" resulting from the unpredictable visa process, said Bill
Martinez, a San Francisco immigration lawyer.
Martinez has started a committee with Isabel Soffer of the World Music
Institute, a leading traditional music and dance producer in New York City,
along with Phyllis Barney, executive director of the Folk Alliance, a
nonprofit service organization in Maryland for folk arts presenters, and
Alison Loerke, a Seattle-based agent for world music acts.
They plan to propose new regulations granting special visa-expediting
consideration for foreign artists who have proven track records of
successful, law-abiding touring in the United States, especially when they
are being booked by well-established presenters.
"Artists who have been here 15 times and been written up in every major
paper--to all of a sudden start questioning their backgrounds is a little
backward," Soffer said. "I think having a separate category for artists is a
Many of the artists who have had to cancel shows recently because of visa
problems have performed here before, including Cuban singer-songwriter Pablo
Milanes and the popular dance band from the same country, Los Van Van. The
expatriate Iranian singer Googoosh performed at a sold-out Great Western
Forum in 2000.
Jan Denton of the American Arts Alliance, a lobby for performing arts
presenters, said her group is proposing legislation to help small nonprofit
presenters who can't afford the $1,000 fee that the INS has required for
speeded-up visa processing since June 2001. If the INS did not act on their
visa applications within a month, Denton said, the nonprofit presenters
automatically would get the faster 15-day "premium" treatment for free.
Sam Chapman, chief of staff for Sen. Barbara Boxer, said congressional
staffs have intervened in the past for arts presenters with visa problems.
But he said there is nothing they can do now when an applicant is hung up in
security clearance checks.
"We get calls like this regularly," he said Friday. "We've seen so much of
it that it's worth raising at a higher level" within the State Department,
to see what might be changed to improve the process.
Sefton, the UCLA performing arts director, said that visa woes have been a
time drain as well: He and three of his staff members spent the better part
of a week recently trying to get the visa process unstuck for some European
performers in his international theater festival. "They're all coming now,
but all normal work grinds to a halt."
Normal decision-making on what acts to book is going out the window too.
Sefton said an agent called him last week hoping he would book artists from
the Fez Festival of World Sacred Music for next season.
"It's from Morocco, and I think, 'We won't get them in,' " Sefton said. "It
makes me think about not booking certain major, respected artists. I think
if nothing changes and I've lost five or six tours this season, when I come
to confirm things for next year, I'll have to make drop-dead financial
choices on whether I can take the risk. That's a despicable position to be
One area presenter has received some good news. Dean Corey, director of the
annual Eclectic Orange Festival in Costa Mesa, said that Friday was "a lucky
day"--it appeared that visa problems had been solved for three Moroccan
horse riders and a Cuban dancer whose absence probably would have
jeopardized the performances of Theatre Zingaro, the international
equestrian troupe that is the festival's cornerstone event, with a 20-show
engagement starting Oct. 12.
|Posted on Thu, Sep. 26, 2002|
By Tanya Barrientos
Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Writer
Booking a foreign performer in the United States has become a nerve-racking
experience for arts organizations caught in the web of tightened national
Cuban pianist Chucho Valdés last week canceled his U.S. tour, which would
have included a stop at the Annenberg Center on Saturday, because he
couldn't get a visa in time.
And Laurence Salzmann, the producer of Festival Cubano, to begin next
Friday, said he had doubled the Philadelphia dance-and-music celebration's
run to five weeks to ensure that the Ballet Folklorico Cutumba had time to
satisfy Immigration and Naturalization Service requirements to enter the
While all visa requests have been under increased scrutiny since Sept. 11,
2001, the State Department announced in May that citizens of seven
countries, including Cuba, would undergo more rigorous investigation.
A State Department spokesman said yesterday that travelers from a second
batch of countries had recently been red-flagged. But because the government
won't reveal the nations, promoters don't know how much time to allow for
visa processing. And the Lancaster (Pa.) Symphony Orchestra is left
wondering whether Chilean conductor Luis Gorelik will be able to make his
scheduled appearance in November.
"It's not as if you can hand people a handbook," says Heather Watts, of the
American Symphony Orchestra League. "These security procedures change from
day to day."
The State Department announced this week that it had worked through a
months-long backlog of visa requests. New requests will typically take two
weeks. However, people from countries the department considers a security
risk require FBI clearances that take far longer.
Already many artists have missed events.
One highly visible example occurred last week when all 22 Cuban artists
nominated for Latin Grammys, including Valdés - who has performed in the
country dozens of times - were unable to attend the award ceremony in
Hollywood because their visas were delayed.
"It's a huge issue for people in our field," said Mervon Mehta, director of
programming at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. "There is an
international meeting of world-music people in Germany next month and this
will be the number-one topic of discussion."
Mehta said he hadn't been forced to cancel or reschedule any Kimmel
performances, "but for people who present artists... this is not
Scott Southard, president of International Music Network, one of the
country's largest world-music booking agencies, said artists had waited up
to four months to get their visas approved. Before, he said, the procedure
rarely took longer than six weeks. Sometimes the wait was as little as two
"My company books about 700 concert events a year for nonresident performers
and we anticipate having to cancel 25 or 30 performances," Southard said.
"In some cases [such as Valdés'], we've elected not to do tours at all."
According to INS procedure, event sponsors must file a request before a
performer may apply for a visa. The artist is required to provide proof that
he or she is a legitimate performer. The sponsor's request is then reviewed
by regional INS officers, who are also dealing with requests by students and
After the INS approves the request, a "petition approval" is sent to the
embassy or consulate in the artist's home country, where the performer must
apply in person for the visa.
People from Iran, Iraq, Libya, the Sudan, North Korea, Syria, Cuba and other
nations the government has declined to identify undergo much closer
scrutiny - including FBI checks - which can cause months of delay.
Last year, Mehta said, a young French violinist was denied a visa. An Irish
pianist was also refused entry, he said.
After announcing this week that it had cleared its backlog of about 10,000
applications, the State Department said the system had been streamlined to
avert future delays. But that does not apply to citizens from nations on the
department's hot list.
Bookers and producers say they understand the reason for tightened security.
But they are struggling with shifting regulations, and worried about the
effect cancellations could have on an ailing arts economy.
"Of course we want them to protect our borders," said Brian Joyce, who runs
the Philadelphia International Children's Festival. "But the economic impact
on the arts... can be devastating. It has a ripple effect on the audience,
the artists, the theater company, the agents."
Southard said there was a movement in the arts arena to lobby Congress to
cut red tape for known performers.
That's not going to happen, said Stuart Patt, spokesman for the consular
affairs bureau of the State Department.
"The fact is, there are many people in the world who will take advantage of
something like music or performing and use it for their own sinister
purpose," Patt said. "Arts and culture is something that carries with it a
patina of goodness and purity, but it can be misused, and it's our job to
see if somebody is trying to do that."
It's the new reality, he added, and the arts world has to adjust.
The Associated Press
Bebo Valdés also unable to enter the US, 9/28/02
Bebo Valdés, who last week won a latin grammy in the traditional
Foreign Performers and U.S. Gigs: Getting Here Is a Tougher Ticket, 7/22/02
|As of two days ago, Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, the Cuban rumba group who
has appeared many times in the U.S. over the last 10 years, had to cancel
scheduled appearances at the last moment (though their INS petition was
approved weeks ago) at the National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta and in
Puerto Rico and New York. Also having to cancel was Síntesis, the
distinguished Cuban group celebrating its 25th anniversary this year with a
just-announced 2002 Latin Grammy nomination, who were to appear at various
dates in August. --Ned Sublette
Los Angeles Times
July 22, 2002
By Mike Boehm, Times Staff Writer
The law, approved unanimously by 97 senators and favored by president George W. Bush, prohibits the admission of people originating from countries that promote terrorism -- like Cuba, Iran, Libya, Iraq, Korea of the North, Sudan and Syria -- with the exception of those who come with immigrant visas.
Nevertheless, the law insures that the Justice and Secretaries of State have the right to admit those who they consider do not represent a threat to the country.
The new law will affect all the same, the ‘viejita’ who comes to visit her relatives in the United States as well as representatives of the Cuban government '', said Washington D.C. attorney Jose Pertierra . "Cubans’ visits are going to diminish significantly."
Republican congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen thinks otherwise.
"I do not believe that this project is going to affect the entrance of Cubans into the United States," Ros-Lehtinen said, for the Cuban case has been dealt with differentlty from the one from other countries."
"The application of the rules is going to be as strict and as ample as up until now. The people who have traveled from Cuba have always been put under extensive controls , ''said Ros-Lehtinen.
She indicated that people coming in by boat or rafts will not be affected, because they will be dealt with as sheltered and protected by the Cuban Adjustment Act.
A source who preferred anonymity told el Nuevo Herald that the law will affect significantly the political delegations and groups of artists, athletes, and scientists from the island who travel constantly to the United States.
"This law will provide the mechanisms so that those people no longer will be able to enter," assured the source.
Before, it was already difficult for a Cuban to obtain a
visa for entry into the United States as a visitor and, therefore, placing the
law into effect "should not to impact" the number of people coming from the
island, said Ana Carbonell, office manager for republican Congressman Lincoln
IMPORTANT WARNING ON FUTURE VISITS FROM CUBANS TO USA , 04/22/02
Attorney Jose Pertierra
A very important development last week.
The Border Security Act recently passed by both the Senate and the House would prohibit the issuance of nonimmigrant (including tourist) visas to persons from countries that are "sponsors of international terrorism" as defined by the Department of State. Cuba is on the list. This means that any Cuban citizen applying for a nonimmigrant visa for a temporary visit to the United States is presumptively inadmissible, unless and until the Secretary of State and the Attorney General waive the ground of inadmissibility on a case by case basis.
This will have a detrimentally significant impact on future visits by Cuban citizens to the United States. There will be delays, and there will be denials of applications for nonimmigrant visas by Cuban nationals. Cuban-Americans who want their family members to visit them in the United States can thank their "leaders" in Miami for this ban on tourist visas to Cubans. Everyone ranging from las viejitas who come once a year to artists, writers and policy makers are affected by this law.
However, Cubans wishing to come to this country are still encouraged to swim or row across shark infested waters to Miami Beach where (after coming ashore illegally) they will be greeted with green cards and a parade on Miami's Calle 8 (assuming of course that you survive the journey). The Border Security Act only affects nonimmigrant visas. The Cuban Adjustment Act is not affected by this new legislation.
Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2001
SEC. 306. RESTRICTION ON ISSUANCE OF VISAS TO NONIMMIGRANTS FROM COUNTRIES THAT ARE STATE SPONSORS OF INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM.
(a) IN GENERAL- No nonimmigrant visa under section 101(a)(15) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(15)) 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, that are applicable to the nationals of such states.
(b) STATE SPONSOR OF INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM DEFINED-
(1) IN GENERAL- In this section, the term `state sponsor of international terrorism' means any country the government of which has been determined by the Secretary of State under any of the laws specified in paragraph (2) to have repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.
(2) LAWS UNDER WHICH DETERMINATIONS WERE MADE- The laws specified in this paragraph are the following:
(A) Section 6(j)(1)(A) of the Export Administration Act of 1979 (or successor statute).
(B) Section 40(d) of the Arms Export Control Act.
(C) Section 620A(a) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961
The Law Office of Jose Pertierra
1010 Vermont Avenue, NW #620
Washington, DC 20005
202 783 6666
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