Cuba/USA to Resume Immigration Talks

By Silvia Ayuso & Isaac Risco

William Ostick, the US spokesman on Hemispheric Affairs. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES —  In a month’s time, the United States and Cuba will resume the migratory talks suspended about two years ago, a US government source told DPA on Wednesday.

According to the spokesman for Washington’s Western Hemisphere Affairs Bureau, William Ostick, the US State Department and Cuban government representatives will meet in the US capital on July 17.

There, the two countries are to resume the talks surrounding the thorny issue of immigration, half a year after Raul Castro’s administration set a historic migratory reform in motion to remove restrictions on international travel by Cubans living on the island.

Home to over 1.5 million people of Cuban origin, the United States is the country with the greatest number of Cuban émigrés in the world. Today it remains the chief destination of Cubans seeking to emigrate.

Washington, however, has shown much caution in its consideration of Cuba’s migratory reforms and whether these can have any type of impact on US laws specifically aimed at Cuban migrants, such as the Cuban Adjustment Act.

This situation, what’s more, will not necessarily be addressed at the bilateral migratory talks to be resumed next month, which will focus on more practical issues, such as the number of travel visas that will be made available to Cubans by the United States and the consular personnel to be posted in Havana and Washington.

The fourth and last round of migratory talks between the two nations took place in Havana in January of 2011. Cuba and the United States had resumed these conversations after Barack Obama took office in 2009, after a six-year hiatus.

Cuban President Raul Castro

The 2011 meeting, however, had been tainted by the incident involving US agent Alan Gross, whose imprisonment in Havana has, over the past two years, become one of the chief obstacles preventing a rapprochement between the island and the United States.

Before these conversations were suspended, Cuba had been seeking a new migratory agreement with the United States to replace the one signed in 1994 following the “rafter-refugee crisis” , when thousands of Cubans arrived at US coasts on makeshift vessels, seeking political asylum.

At the time, the United States agreed to make 20 thousand visas available to Cubans on the island every year in order to encourage organized and lawful travel between the two countries, while Cuba agreed to take in those Cubans repatriated by US authorities without reprisals.

“Continuing to guarantee safe migration between Cuba and the United States is consistent with our interest in promoting greater freedoms and a greater respect towards human rights in Cuba,” the US government source pointed out on explaining the reasons behind these new talks.

That said, the source made it clear that these talks “do not represent a significant change in US policy towards Cuba.”

The remark mirrors one made earlier this week, when the U.S. State Department confirmed that a new 2-day bilateral meeting would be held in Washington to explore the possibility to re-establishing direct correspondence channels between Cuba and the United States, eliminated over fifty years ago.

The fact of the matter is that any gesture towards Cuba that Washington essays is often vehemently condemned by a sizable group of legislators who are opposed to any kind of rapprochement with the island.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

Cuban-born Republican Congresswoman for Florida Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who condemned this last meeting before it was even held, is one case in point.

“The regime is once again manipulating the US administration in this game because they want us to lift the blockade and make further concessions,” the legislator stated.

The meeting, which marked the resumption of gatherings that had been suspended in 2009, ended today after a 2-day gathering behind closed doors between State Department and US Postal Service officials and high-ranking Cuban government representatives, led by Jose Cabañas, the head of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington.

News of the meeting on mail service where divulged yesterday in Havana, which was dubbed “satisfactory” and “worthwhile” by the Cuban delegation. The delegation, however, also stressed the “obstacles” in the way of re-establishing a mail service between the countries, stemming from the embargo which the United States has imposed on Cuba for over fifty years.

This year, Havana set a historic migratory reform in motion to put an end to travel regulations which had restricted travel from the island for decades. Since January, Cubans have been entitled to travel abroad without the need to request special authorization (a document known as the “white card”) or a letter of invitation from a host.

Travel restrictions and the United States’ permissive migratory policies, which entitles all Cubans who set foot on US soil to request political asylum, have sparked off several diplomatic crises between the two nations in the course of recent decades.


8 thoughts on “Cuba/USA to Resume Immigration Talks

  • Secretly all Cuban officials love this policy. That’s how they got their children into the US. But they won’t adit it. About helping Communists. Do you think the US government so much different from the Cuban government? Which government records every phone call, every movement of its own citizens? NSA admitted themselves that they keep all these records for everyone for at least 5 years.

  • In poker, you must play the cards you are dealt, not the hand you would have if the world were perfect. Cuba must deal with the reality of its relationship with the US and not wait to be treated as an equal. It is correct to assume that without nukes, North Korea would have no one’s attention. Without oil, Saudi Arabia would just be an oversized sandbox. Cuba, having no oil nor significant mineral resources and because they pose no real military threat either, is pushed to the bottom of the diplomatic pile. Worse, because of Fidel’s acerbic rhetoric, there is little reason to even be sympathetic to the third world realities facing Cuba. Finally, and I believe this strongly, Cuba has no geneologial attractiveness to the US. That is too say, we don’t particularly care to help propagate a bunch of baby Cubans as we would if they were say…Holland. Given these ‘disadvantages’, the burden is on the Castros to push for a relationship with the US just as it was on Martin Luther King on behalf of ‘Negroes’ to push the US to honor it national creed. Black leadership during that time could have said as many of you who support Cuba say today, “we will wait for the US to make the next move”. I am glad that MLK saw no wisdom in letting racial sovereignty get in the way of progress. Instead, he took to the streets and pressed our government to live up to its ideals. The Castros, however, out of self-interest, have no desire to press the US to improve relations. If they did, there would be less name-calling and more diplomacy. Cuba is the weaker country and therefore should realize that they must do more to press the US to live up to our ideals. Holding Alan Gross gives the US an excuse to do nothing. What does it gain Cuba. Self-respect? Cuba loses pieces of its self-respect every day they turn a blind eye to child prostitution, and money laundering and other such national shames done in the name procuring hard currency. The fact simply is that status quo with Cuba has absolutely no net ill effect on the US economy and our way of life. However, whether you blame the embargo or the rampant exodus of Cuba’s most productive segment of the population or the deterioration of Cuban values, Cuba badly needs to mend fences with its northern neighbor. Waiting for the US to “do the right thing” will be a long wait and will likely come too late to save what is still good about Cuba.

  • Dear Moses. In medicine and most things in life, there are first, second and many steps thereafter. The US demands for discussing or negotiating existing differences between both countries has not happened, not because of Free Multiparty Elections, Free Press, Freedom of Assembly or Release of Political Prisoners. There has been no discussions with Cuba, because of Cuba’s weakness, lack of leverage. Tens of countries with which the United States maintain close relations, do not have multiparty elections, free press, many political prisoners, some of whom torture.

    More important, as a matter of principle, basic dignity, I agree with Cuba or any other country for that matter, for refusing to be bullied, underestimated and blackmailed to act or else.

    It is a sad fact of life. United States is ready to enter into conversation with North Korea, the most maligned country on earth. Could this be because of its rockets, South Korea vulnerability or for having a nuclear weapon?

    Once step one is completed, the Cuban people have the right to take step two, wherever it leads. Best.

  • Why would the US discuss the ‘wet foot/dry foot’ policy with Cuba? Cuba’s position is clear. The Castros hate it. What would Cuba be willing to trade for it’s elimination? It would have to be something worthwhile as to eliminate that policy requires an act of Congress. In case you hadn’t heard, Congress isn’t too keen on helping Communists these days.

  • Mr. Jones, you have undeniable passion for the Cuban cause. However, you seem to have a blind spot when it comes to why Cuba is suffering. There would be no embargo if there were open and free multiparty elections in Cuba. If there was a free press and the basic freedom of assembly and no political prisoners. The path to a better Cuba is well-traveled. Lessons can be learned from former Soviet Bloc eastern European countries and even Myanmar which will put Cuba in the best position to avoid their mistakes while mimicking their successes. Cuba’s own successes in health care, education and even race relations would only benefit from a free Cuba. Why do you fail to see the problem began with the brothers Castro and will begin to be resolved when they are no longer in power?

  • Discussions about postal services between the US and Cuba fifty years after it was suspended, is a waste of time and energy, in light of the grave and urgent needs in Cuba and the United States.

    During these years, Cuban ingenuity have developed a number of ways of communicating with their loved ones, albeit being slow and 10-20 fold the cost to any other country.

    But as long as people are hungry, their homes are collapsing, patients are denied life-saving medications and we have no way of getting to Cuba in time to the funeral of our closest family member, why are we worrying about a Mother’s Day post card?

    Since everyone in Cuba is convinced, that the only business operation that comes close to our minimum expectation are those jointly owned with foreign companies, and millions of dollars are lost on a daily basis in the US because of a failed, outdated and useless embargo, when will it be, that common sense and logic may lead to convert most of Cuba’s enterprises into Joint Ventures and give thousands of business people in the United States, an opportunity to expand their business, while creating tens of thousands of jobs in this country.

    A short visit to Louisiana, Houston, Gulfport, Mobile, Tampa, Jacksonville and Miami, are the best example of how foolish, this mutually destructive embargo has been to ordinary people in the US and Cuba.

    An article featured in Time Magazine in the year 2011 demonstrated, that while all businesses in the US were on a downward spiral, growth, employment and expansion was taking place in 20th St in Miami and other Cuba-related business section in that city.

    What would both sides lose politically, if in lieu of 10 daily flights to Cuba, they became 100, if hundreds of thousands of vehicles and equipment rotting on dealership parking lots in Miami could be sold, if patients without insurance could find healthcare and senior citizens still working in their golden years to make ends meet, could find affordable living?

    How would parents be harmed, by providing their children with schools where they are educated, not bullied or shot?

    Would we all not be much safer, if thousands of Hispanic mental health patients, drug addicts and war deranged victims without professional help, had an alternate option to restore their sanity?

  • Most likely they will discuss the ending of the wet feet, dry feet policy. Too may Cubans are arriving through Ecuador and other countries

  • The Castros desperately in need of increasing the amount of remittances sent from the US to sustain the Cuban economy are faced with the ongoing balancing act of continuing to lose their best educated and most productive segment of their population to immigration against the need for the hard currency these émigrés will send back to family in Cuba. The US, on the other hand, needs to extend migration visas to an extra thousand or so poor Cubans like we need a hole in the head. This summer, in view of the overall politics surrounding immigration reform in the US, there is NO incentive on the part of the US to negotiate with Cuba on migration. These talks reflect the US going through the motions in order to appease an ever-growing segment on the political left who have accused Obama of doing nothing with Cuban relations. Like the mail service talks which just concluded, the Cubans, who continue to overestimate their clout, will press for lifting the embargo and release of the five convicted Cuban spies. The US will say take it or leave it and the talks will conclude having accomplished nothing. The only movement on the part of the US towards a thaw in relations will come after the unilateral release of Alan Gross. Maybe.

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