The US and Cuba will hold another round of migration talks on Wednesday, officials said, as the Biden administration tries to end Covid-era border restrictions that have barred Cubans from Mexico from entering the US in recent months.
The high-level meeting in Washington follows November in Havana, a year after the Biden administration resumed such talks after a long hiatus under former President Donald Trump.
The U.S. Embassy in Havana fully operationalized immigrant visa and consular services in January for the first time since 2017 in an effort to stem the record flow of immigrants from Cuba to the United States.
This week’s meeting “continues our long engagement with Cuba as a neighbor on migration issues and is limited to the topic of migration,” a US State Department official said on Monday.
“Ensuring safe, orderly, humane, and regular immigration between Cuba and the United States is a primary concern for the United States, consistent with our interest in promoting family reunification and promoting greater respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Cuba.” The official said on condition of anonymity.
Cuba’s communist government has said it also wants to encourage legal and orderly immigration, but has long blamed the Cold War US embargo for stifling the island’s economy and encouraging young people to emigrate.
In the fiscal year ending September 30, 2022, 220,000 Cubans were caught illegally crossing the US-Mexico border as part of a broader increase in detentions under Democratic US President Joe Biden. Many Cubans traveled to Florida on dangerous boats and ferries.
Under pressure from Republicans and some Democrats, Biden tightened border security measures in January, resulting in a drop in the number of Cubans and other migrants detained at the border.
At the same time, Biden expanded legal routes to the United States, allowing 30,000 Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans to enter legally a month if they traveled by plane and had an American sponsor.
The U.S. Border Patrol arrested 176 Cubans along the Southwest border in February, up from nearly 43,000 in December.
But when the Covid border restrictions expire on May 11, the Biden administration is bracing for a surge in migrants trying to cross the border into Mexico.
The restrictions, known as Title 42, allow U.S. officials to quickly deport immigrants to Mexico without the opportunity to claim U.S. asylum.
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