U.S. and Cuban officials recently met to discuss policies and procedures to promote safe, legal and orderly migration between Cuba and the United States. The meeting underscores our commitment to adhere to full implementation of the 1994-1995 U.S.-Cuba Migration Accords.
The talks began 20 years ago in an effort to support safe, legal, and orderly travel between the United States and Cuba. To further this effort, each year the U.S. State Department issues 20,000 travel documents to Cuban nationals.
Discussions on implementing the accords have historically been held twice a year, but were suspended in 2003. The Obama Administration resumed the discussions in July 2009.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Alex Lee led the U.S. delegation at the July 9, 2014 meeting, held in Washington, D.C. Director General for U.S. Affairs Josefina Vidal Ferreiro led the Cuban delegation.
The recent discussions reflect longstanding U.S. priorities on U.S.-Cuba migration issues. Other areas where cooperation between our two countries is in the U.S. national interest were discussed, including aviation safety, search and rescue at sea, visa processing and information sharing on the interdiction of undocumented migrants.
The U.S. side urged the Cuban government to release Alan Gross, a U.S. citizen imprisoned in Cuba for over four years for facilitating internet access to Cuban citizens.
The United States has taken steps to engage Cuba on issues of mutual interest. Travel restrictions have been relaxed, educational exchanges expanded, limits on family remittances removed, and humanitarian assistance and telecommunication.
Building on this progress, we hope that the Cuban government will take steps of its own to allow all of its citizens to benefit fully from greater freedoms, consistent with the aspirations enshrined as universal human rights.