The United States and Cuba Meet on Migration

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A Good Step, but Let’s Open the Conversation

The two neighbors are back at the negotiating table after a six year hiatus.  Since President Obama pledged to relax travel restrictions for Cuban Americans in April, we’ve all been looking for signs of a next step from the administration.  

These migration talks show a renewed willingness to engage in focused discussions – one issue at a time.  This limited engagement with Cuba is part of a clear signal coming from Washington that diplomacy will again be central to America’s foreign policy.  And as Hillary Clinton delivers a major speech this week at the Council on Foreign Relations to outline her global priorities, Latin America has to be high on the list. 

The Cuban and U.S. officials are meeting in New York to discuss the shared concern for migration. Since the early 90’s, the United States has been concerned about a steady stream of Cubans risking their lives to come to our shores, often by boat.  It is clearly in both countries’ interest, according to the State Department, for there to be “safe, legal and orderly migration.''  Craig Kelly from Western Hemisphere Affairs is meeting with former head of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, Dagoberto Rodríguez.  Similar negotiations on the U.S.–Cuba Migration Accords had been suspended in 2003 after the Bush Administration found the Cuban delegation to be “uncooperative.”

With a crisis in Honduras still unfolding, and increasing uncertainty about the role of the OAS, now is the time to address U.S. policy in the Americas directly.  A renewed dialogue with Cuba can serve as a sign of broader engagement with the rest of the hemisphere.  And it may give impetus and energy to our work on ending the travel ban. The next round of migration meetings is tentatively scheduled for December.