By Matt Spekalnik
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – US and Cuban officials have been meeting with Havana in Washington on Thursday to discuss immigration issues since US President Joe Biden took office last year. .
The meeting comes at a time when the Biden administration is facing a growing number of immigrants trying to cross the U.S. border from Mexico, representing a growing role for Cubans.
Tensions over the Cuban government’s protests between Washington and Havana, the continuation of U.S. sanctions on the Communist-ruled island and other issues make it difficult for countries to co-operate on challenges such as illegal immigration.
The Cuban delegation will be headed by Vice-Chancellor Carlos Fernandez de Cosio, two sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The delegation is expected to meet with senior officials from the US State Department and other agencies.
In the record number of Cubans arriving on the U.S.-Mexico border, the United States wants Cuba to include the deportees, according to one U.S. official and another source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said the Cuban government had not approved deportation flights from the United States for more than six months. As of March 26, about 40,000 Cubans in the United States were on final deportation orders from an immigration judge, a spokesman said.
Cuba said it supports law, order and secure immigration. He blamed the United States for the increase in illegal immigration, saying the Cold War sanctions and the decision to close the US embassy in Havana were encouraging Cuba to look for dangerous ways off the island.
The U.S. State Department said last month that it would begin processing some visas again in Havana to begin easing the recession after a four-year hiatus, but progress has been slow.
“We have seen a significant increase in illegal Cuban immigration to the United States by land and sea,” a State Department spokesman said.
A spokesman, who did not want to be named, declined to confirm the planned meeting, but said “we continue to involve Cuban officials in matters important to the US government, such as human rights and immigration.”
The talks scheduled for Thursday appear to be at a higher level than the formal contacts known since Biden’s inauguration in January 2021.
The Cuban government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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