Blockading Cuban: Israel Won’t Let Islander in to Visit Brother

'An Israeli citizen wants to see his brother, whom he hasn’t seen for years, and they make it so hard for him, after all the previous times that went off without any problems?'

Elier and Salit Angulo with their daughters in Netanya.
Tomer Appelbaum

The Interior Ministry is piling up obstacles to prevent a Cuban national from visiting his brother, an Israeli citizen who lives in Netanya.

First, the ministry’s Population, Immigration and Border Authority refused to let the man into Israel at all, saying it feared he intended to settle here – even though he has two children and a regular job back in Cuba, as noted on his visa application.

Then, following an inquiry by Haaretz, the population authority changed its mind and set it would allow Anier Angulo Portal to enter, but only for one month, and only if he posts a bond of 50,000 shekels ($12,600).

The brother, Elier Angulo, met an Israeli citizen, Salit Levi, when she visited Cuba as a tourist in 2008. He followed her back to Netanya and they got married.

Five years ago, when their eldest daughter was born, Elier’s mother came to Israel for the birth and stayed for eight months. In contrast, when his father and sister sought to visit three years ago, the population authority initially refused to grant them a visa, saying it feared they planned to settle here. But following a media uproar and intervention by the Knesset’s Special Committee for Public Petitions, it reversed course and let them come for three months if they posted a bond at 30,000 shekels each.

In summer 2014, Elier became a naturalized Israeli citizen. About a year later, he asked the population authority for a visitor’s visa for his brother.

“Since I moved to Israel seven years ago, I’ve visited Cuba only twice, so in total I’ve managed to see my brother for about two months during those years,” he wrote in his request, submitted last August. “I very much want him to come visit us in Israel, like the relatives who visited us earlier, to get to know our family and our daughters and to spend a little quality time with us. Currently, my daughters know Anier only through pictures, and that’s also how he knows them.

“I come from a very close family, as does my wife, Salit, and the enormous distances between us and our family in Cuba is hard on everyone,” Elier continued. “It’s very important to me that our daughters get to know their far-away relatives and get to spend time with them and enjoy them, and since the cost for the four of us to travel to Cuba would be incomparably higher, inviting my relatives to visit is the only option for us at this stage.

“Anier has never left Cuba, and his whole world is there – family, job, friends,” the application added. “Anier has two children, who will surely wait impatiently for their father to return from his trip abroad.”

Two months after submitting the application, Elier and Salit inquired about its progress. “When we asked what was going on with it, they told us, ‘Come and submit it again,’” he said. “I asked the clerk what had happened to the application and she said, ‘We lost it.’”

Salit submitted a new application, but in December, they received a laconic notice saying the application had been rejected for fear that Anier would seek to stay here. The population authority did not request any additional information or documentation before making this decision. We don’t understand why it keeps getting more difficult instead of easier,” Salit said. “The first time they didn’t ask for a bond at all and approved a lengthy stay. The second time they approved three months – after media intervention, of course – with a bond of 30,000 shekels per person. Now they want 50,000 shekels for one person, and just for a month?

“An Israeli citizen wants to see his brother, whom he hasn’t seen for years, and they make it so hard for him, after all the previous times that went off without any problems?” she continued. “It’s really strange.

“Why, instead of getting easier over time, is it just getting harder, with more stringent conditions?” she demanded. “All we’re asking is a reasonable amount of time to spend with a relative that our daughters have never had the privilege of meeting, for him to get to know our family here and enjoy our society a little. And without having to mortgage the house to pay a monstrous bond for the purpose.”

The Population, Immigration and Border Authority said, “The application was examined thoroughly, and in light of all the circumstances, we initially decided to reject it. After reconsidering, and out of a desire to meet the family halfway, we approved the application subject to posting bond.”