Amid a record number of Cubans arriving at the US southern border with Mexico, Washington and Havana have entered into tentative US visa talks for the first time in four years. Cuban officials visited Washington recently for the highest-level migration talks since Joe Biden took office.
US and Cuban officials had been meeting bi-annually since 1990 to discuss Cuba’s access to US visas. However, four years ago under the Trump administration, talks ceased and US immigration operations in Havana came to a grinding halt.
The talks in Washington became heated when Cuba’s foreign minister, Bruno Rodriguez, urged the US to ‘fully comply’ with bilateral agreements between the two countries concerning US visas and immigration, while also calling on the US to stop what he described as ‘policies that prevent Cubans from traveling to the US and overseas’.
Violating Cuban travel rights
Rodriguez said: “The US should stop violating the rights of Cubans to travel in the region.”
In a later post on his official Twitter account, Rodriguez tweeted: “Cuba reiterates that the US should cease hindering and violating the rights of Cubans to travel to third countries of the region and calls for comprehensive and non-selective compliance with the bilateral migration accords.”
The discussions in Washington, which were held between senior Department of State officials and Cuba’s deputy foreign minister, focused on US immigration with the US contingent eager to stem the flow of Cubans trying to enter the US at the southern border with Mexico, sometimes without documentation.
According to Cuba’s foreign ministry representatives, US policies and sanctions serve to create ‘social and economic conditions that incentivize immigration to the US’.
More US visas for Cubans
Cuba’s government has also demanded that the US issue more visas to Cubans seeking to travel to the US, in accordance with previous bilateral agreements. Cuban officials accused the US of only offering limited consular services in Havana, and forcing Cubans to apply for US visas in Guyana instead.
An official statement released by Cuba’s foreign ministry said: “These measures, including those associated with the extreme tightening of the economic blockade, are leading to the loss of human lives and … crimes such as illicit alien smuggling, migration fraud and people-trafficking, which affect both countries and the region.”
Meanwhile, the US Department of State (DoS) said that while the talks had resulted in some areas of successful cooperation, there were obstacles in agreeing on safe, orderly and legal immigration to the US from Cuba.
Talks were held just a day after US border authorities announced a record number of Cubans seeking entry to the US in March.
DoS spokesperson, Ned Price, said: “We have seen, and this I think underscores the imperative of undertaking these talks, we’ve seen a significant increase in irregular migration on a part of Cuban migrants coming to the United States.”
As things stand, US immigration restrictions on Cuba remain at the same level at which Trump had restored them. Prior to the recent talks, migration discussions between the two nations had not been held since 2018.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration has been putting pressure on other regional governments in central and southern America, urging them to do more to stop migrants from reaching the US. Most recently, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas visited Panama for migration talks.
The summit in Panama City, which included representatives from more than 20 nations in the Americas region, did not include Cuba.
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