US, Cuba hold migration talks in Havana

Published January 09, 2014

| Associated Press

U.S. and Cuban representatives held a fresh round of migration talks in Havana on Thursday, continuing a recent trend of the two Cold War foes working together on some issues.

A Cuban government statement said the talks covered the status of 1990s migratory accords under which the U.S. agreed to issue 20,000 immigrant visas a year to Cubans, as well as efforts to combat illegal immigration and people trafficking.

Havana reiterated its stance that to ensure legal and orderly migration, the U.S. must do away with the Cuban Adjustment Act, which makes Cubans eligible for permanent residency after being in the States for one year, and the "wet-foot, dry-foot" policy, which lets islanders who arrive on American soil stay while those detained at sea are repatriated.

"These are the main encouragement to illegal departures and irregular arrivals of Cuban citizens in the U.S. territory," the statement said.

There was no immediate comment from the U.S. delegates, who were expected to speak to reporters Friday. A day earlier, the U.S. State Department said the talks did not represent any change in Cuba policy.

The meetings have sometimes been used as a back-channel for two countries without full diplomatic relations to broach other issues, though there was no word on whether the discussions strayed this time around.

Migration talks were suspended in 2011, the year Cuba sentenced U.S. government development subcontractor Alan Gross to 15 years in prison for alleged crimes against the state. They resumed last July.

Cuban and American officials also met multiple times in 2013 on re-establishing direct mail service.

On Thursday, Cuban authorities said they briefed their U.S. counterparts about the Caribbean nation's changed migratory policy.

Next week is the one-year anniversary of a law scrapping an exit visa requirement that for decades made it difficult for Cuban citizens to travel overseas. The government says more islanders making trips abroad under the new rule.

The Cuban statement called the discussions "respectful" and reiterated Havana's "willingness to continue exchanges on matters of mutual interest for their importance to the two nations."

The delegations were led by Alex Lee, deputy assistant secretary at the State Department's Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, and Josefina Vidal, director of the U.S. Division at Cuba's Foreign Ministry.

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