- The Washington Times - Friday, September 29, 2000

Bersabe Febles is dying. Earlier this week, she nearly slipped away in her Long Island hospital. But she has one last wish before she goes: to see her son, Jorge Febles, whom she left in Cuba in 1968 when he was only 15 years old. Bersabe Febles had expected a bribe to a government official would buy her son's escape from Cuba in a matter of days after she fled. But that official disappeared and with him all hopes of getting Jorge Febles off the island safely.

Communist regimes have torn apart families the world over in Cuba, Korea, Eastern Europe, Africa. But what's remarkable about the Febles case is that it isn't Cuban dictator Fidel Castro who stands in the way of a visit by Mr. Febles, now 48 years old and with his own family in Cuba. Instead, officials at the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service are barring his visit. The agency won't explain why, but immigration officials told the Associated Press that in general, even applicants seeking visas for humanitarian reasons must show strong economic and social ties to their home countries. That would be quite a challenge for Mr. Febles, since the Cuban regime owns virtually everything on the island.

Mrs. Febles' 32-year separation from her son must be incalculably painful. If a deathbed reunion would bring her any peace, then her son ought to be allowed to visit her. Where are the voices championing her cause? Where is the National Council of Churches, the organization that worked so vigorously to have Elian Gonzalez returned to his father in Cuba? The council told editors at The Washington Times it hasn't gotten involved in the Febles case because no one has asked the organization to intervene. Did it need an invitation to get involved in Elian's case?

Reps. Rick Lazio and Peter King, both Republicans from New York, and Sen. Charles Schumer, New York Democrat, have sent letters to the U.S. Interests Section in Havana on behalf of Mr. Febles. Mrs. Febles' daughter, who lives in the United States, maintains that her brother has no desire to emigrate to the United States. He wants only to see his dying mother, then return to his own family in Cuba.

Mrs. Febles no doubt thought about her stranded son every day of her life. Other lawmakers and organizations should support this dying woman's last wish. Bureaucratic whims shouldn't stand in the way of this reunion.

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