United States: resumption of full issuance of immigrant visas in Havana

Written January 4, 2023, 6:41 am

New questioning of Donald Trump’s policy in the United States, while the immigration agreements with Cuba had been interrupted by the Republican president. The American Embassy in Havana resumed on Wednesday the general issuance of visas to Cubans who wish to settle in the United States.

“The United States is working to ensure safe, legal and orderly emigration for Cubans by expanding consular services to Havana and resuming family reunification (procedures),” the US diplomatic mission said. The embassy announced in March the reopening of its consulate, which has been closed since 2017 due to alleged health incidents affecting diplomats.

A limited replay of the dialogue

As early as May 2022, the consulate had resumed in a “limited” manner the issuance of visas to Cubans wishing to emigrate. “We have made very discreet progress with the aim of putting bilateral cooperation on the path to the implementation of migration agreements,” Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel acknowledged in mid-December. Since 2017, Cubans wishing to obtain a visa to the United States have faced a veritable obstacle course with the obligation to apply at their own expense in a third country – generally Guyana, in South America.

“It is a good sign that the governments of the two countries are talking to each other about how to deal with migration flows in an orderly and rational way,” Michael Shifter, from Georgetown University in Washington, analyzed for AFP. But those talks “have been limited to migration issues, especially in the context of the severe migration crisis,” said Jorge Duany, a Cuba specialist at Florida International University.

More than 300,000 Cubans entered illegally in one year

Cuba is hit by a serious economic crisis and is experiencing an unprecedented migration exodus. Since the end of 2021, many Cubans have taken advantage of the visa exemption in Nicaragua, an ally of Havana, to then try to join the United States through Central America.

Thus, about 326,336 Cubans, or 2.9% of the island’s population (11.2 million inhabitants), entered the United States illegally during twelve months (until the beginning of December 2022), according to the American authorities. . Illegal emigration by sea has also increased dramatically in recent months. The Cuban government has acknowledged that by 2022, for the first time since 2017, Washington had granted more than 20,000 visas to Cubans seeking to settle in the United States, as stipulated in 1994 agreements.

But even if Washington “does not want to recognize it, there is a direct link between the resurgence of extreme measures against the Cuban economy and the dramatic flow of migration that has exploded”, insisted in November to AFP Johana Tablada, senior official of the Cuban economy. Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Careful Biden

If certain sanctions imposed during Donald Trump’s mandate have been eased by his successor Joe Biden, the Democrat is currently wary of adopting the policy of rapprochement implemented by Barack Obama (2009-2017). Upon his arrival in the White House in 2021, Joe Biden had promised to overhaul US policy towards Cuba, but his speech became tougher after anti-government protests on the island in July 2021.

In December, the US president again called for the release of “hundreds of political prisoners” arrested during the protests. Washington also kept Cuba on the list of countries that sponsor terrorism and recently included it on another list of countries that violate religious freedom.

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