Green Card Blues
Of all the immediate actions by the U.S. government following September 11
the most strident by far are those concerning immigration . While visa restrictions
have not caused any explicit examples of music censorship, they are still concern-
ing and worthy of note here.
Even before September 11
, U.S. immigration was highly restrictive towards
those desiring to enter or work in the United States. Often times, the process to
receive a "green card " (U.S. government permission to reside and work in the
United States) can take years and involve multiple hearings, forms, and processes.
After the new regulations were put into place, most alien visitors to the United
States were forced to begin the "green card" procedure over again, regardless of
how far along they were in the process. Further, the U.S. government has also
taken a much more proactive role in extraditing and deporting foreigners whose
visas have expired. In many instances, the immigration restrictions in place only
force those wanting to come/stay in the U.S. to go "underground" and attempt to
enter/stay without the government's knowledge or intervention.
The implementation of immigration reforms that have had the highest impact
on music are those regarding Cuba . Since September 11
, no Cuban musician has
been granted a visa to enter the United States.
In 1996, musician Ry Cooder went to Cuba with a group of Cuban musicians
for an album and film called The Buena Vista Social Club . The album was a huge
hit by world music standards, selling more than one million copies in the United
States, winning a Grammy award, and bringing notoriety and fame to the musi-
cians involved. Because of many of the musicians' advanced ages, Cooder was
eager to go back and record more albums, but was met with mixed success.
In 2000, outgoing President Bill Clinton granted Cooder a waiver to return to
Cuba and record two additional projects. However, since September 11
, he has
not been able to continue his work of recording and documenting Cuba's music.
Speaking of the last disc he recorded with guitarist Manuel Galban and singer
Ibrahim Ferer , Cooder said, "When I say this is a classic Latin record what I'm
really saying is it might be the last chance to do this kind of mingling of people
and styles. Politically, I can't do it again so I have to say that is the best I can
Cooder was not the only one who had trouble coming and going from Cuba .
In addition to the prohibition on travel to Cuba and the long-standing Trading
with The Enemy Act (the 1917 legislation that forbids commerce with the coun-
try's enemies, applied to Cuba since 1959), post-September 11