Looking over the new itinerary for my vacation with my three younger kids, steam began to spew from my ears. It has been a lifelong dream of mine to visit Cuba. My daughter shares that dream and once a month we go to our favorite Cuban restaurant in Queens and dream about visiting. Six months ago, our dream looked like it would become a reality. We booked a Royal Caribbean cruise that made stops in Cuba. It would also happen around my daughter’s 13th birthday, which added extra excitement for our cruise. Then, Donald Trump banned trips to Cuba. Trump’s foreign policy decision to target the Cuban economy spoiled our opportunity to see Cuba.
Meanwhile, we’re still able to visit Russia, a country that meddled in our election. But anyway… back to Cuba.
Royal Caribbean apologized and is doing its best to make the trip fun, with added stops in Mexico and by a great new deal. Since we already had flights booked and hotels stays confirmed, we decided to stick with the cruise. And knowing that Royal Caribbean has a great kids’ club, I know the kids will still have fun. But, my anger was fresh yesterday morning while trying to find the right activities and excursions for my kids and me to enjoy.
While planning, I took a break to check the news. There, on my computer screen, was an image of a father and daughter washed up on the banks of the Rio Grande. A father, Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his daughter, Valeria, were swept away by the river’s waters as Oscar’s wife, Tania Vanessa Avalos, watched. The family became impatient with the long immigration process and tried crossing the river. But the river was too much. The family was escaping El Salvador, a violent country where they were unsafe. They traveled far, knowing that being sent home was a possibility.
As a father, this photo broke my heart. Would I travel that far for the slightest hope that my daughter would have a better opportunity? Yes, I would. Families coming into the United States are the best of their country. They come to make a better life for their families, but our current government sees it differently. And instead of processing the immigrants in a timelier manner, they are displaced, separated from their families, and treated inhumanely. Would I, if I was in Oscar’s shoes, attempt to cross that river? To give my family hope and a better life? You bet I would. I know those that have, they are my friends and among my heroes.
Looking at the photo of Oscar and his daughter, lined up together, dead on the bank, my Cuban travel plans didn’t seem that big of a problem. Trump has angered me so often during his time in office and I selfishly thought cancelling my Cuban trip was the icing on the cake. A dead father and daughter are much worse.
America can do better. The president can do better. I have heard over and over that we are a Christian Nation, but we are far from that. Throughout the Bible, we are told to take care of the immigrant or sojourner. To assist the poor, the needy, the widows. We’re not doing that. And for those that say locking up and separating families will frighten others from coming, shame on you. We shouldn’t be in the business of frightening people away, we should be welcoming.
My trip now stops in ports in Mexico. My kids and I will have fun. We’ll enjoy our time together. But my heart will still be broken for Oscar and Valeria. They weren’t looking for a life of luxury, just a better life away from the horrors of their home. We can do better.