An important step forward in improving bilateral relations occurred this January 12 with the signing of an agreement between the governments of Cuba and the United States, which entered into effect this same day, intended to guarantee regular, safe, and ordered migration.
With this agreement, eliminated is the policy known as “wet foot-dry foot” and the temporary admission parole program for Cuban health professionals, which Washington implements in third countries.
For several years now, there has been ongoing interest, on the part of the Cuban government, in adopting a new migratory agreement, to resolve serious problems that continue to affect migratory relations, despite the existence of bilateral agreements in this area. Cuba formalized this request for the first time in 2002, a request which was rejected by then President George W. Bush. The country made another attempt to present a new migratory accord in 2009, which was updated in 2010, and reiterated most recently November 30, 2015.
After almost a year of negotiation, encouraged by the reestablishment of diplomatic relations, July 20, 2015, based on mutual respect and the political will to strengthen ties and establish new understandings in diverse areas of common interest, the governments were able to reach this commitment which should contribute to the normalization of migratory relations, which since the triumph of the Revolution have been marked by the implementation of aggressive policies in this arena by successive U.S. administrations, which encouraged violence, irregular migration, and trafficking in persons, causing numerous deaths of innocent people.
The agreement reached reflects Cuba’s will, reiterated by Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, President of the Councils of State and Ministers, in his speech of December 17, 2014, and on multiple occasions “to sustain with the United States government a respectful dialogue, based on sovereign equality, to address the most diverse issues reciprocally, without compromising national independence or our people’s self determination… a position that was expressed to the U.S. government, publicly and privately, by compañero Fidel at different times during our long struggle, with the purpose of discussing and resolving differences through negotiation, without renouncing a single one of our principles.”
Likewise, it is consistent with the express will of the Cuban government to update its current migratory policy, exercising its sovereignty, adapting to current conditions and those of the foreseeable future, as demonstrated by the implementation of an important series of measures beginning January 14, 2013.
The policy commonly known as “wet foot-dry foot,” a flagrant violation of the letter and spirit of the migratory accords reached between Cuba and the United States in 1994 and 1995, has constituted, until this point, a stimulus to irregular migration, trafficking in emigrants, and irregular entries into the United States from third countries by Cuban citizens who traveled abroad legally, and were admitted to U.S. territory automatically, affording them singular, preferential treatment not available to citizens from other countries, which also encourages illegal emigration. Its implementation and that of other policies provoked migratory crises, hijackings of airplanes and boats, and the commission of crimes like trafficking in emigrants, in persons, migratory fraud, and the use of violence, with a growing extraterritorial destabilizing impact on other countries in the region, used as a transit routes to reach U.S. territory.
The decision to eliminate this policy implies that “as of the date of this Joint Statement, the United States of America, in accordance with its laws and international norms, will return to the Republic of Cuba, and the Republic of Cuba, in accordance with its laws and international norms, will accept all Cuban citizens, who subsequent to the signing of this agreement, are detected by appropriate authorities of the United States of America when they attempt to enter or remain in this country irregularly,” in violation of the law.
From now on, the United States is also committed to apply, in the case of Cuban citizens detected in this situation, the same procedures and migratory norms stipulated for migrants from other countries, with no selective criteria, which is a positive step in terms of eliminating the exclusivity with which Cubans have been treated, motivated by political considerations.
Likewise, the so-called Parole Program for Cuban Medical Professionals, which has been part of the arsenal used to deny the country doctors, nurses, and other professionals from this sector, virtually an international talent theft operation promoted by the U.S. government since 2006, and an attack on Cuba’s solidary, humanitarian medical missions in Third World countries, which are so needed. This policy encouraged Cuban health personnel collaborating in third countries to abandon their missions, and emigrate to the United States, becoming a reprehensible practice that harmed Cuba’s international medical cooperation programs.
These two obstacles disappeared this January 12, but to be consistent with the letter and spirit of this Joint Declaration, and guarantee regular, safe, and ordered migration, effectively confront security threats to the two countries posed by irregular migration, and achieve normal migratory relations between Cuba and the United states, it is also necessary that the U.S. Congress repeal the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, the only one of its kind in the world which does not reflect the current bilateral context.
With the exception of what is stated in this Joint Declaration, all other migratory agreements reached previously between Cuba and the United States remain in effect: the Joint Communiqués of December 14, 1984, and that of September 9, 1994, and the Joint Statement of May 2, 1995. Among other issues, reaffirmed is the decision made by the two parties to prevent illegal maritime departures and return to Cuba all persons intercepted in such acts and those who enter the Guantánamo Naval Base. The United States government continues to guarantee regular migration from Cuba for a minimum of 20,000 persons annually.
Both governments agree to apply their migratory laws in a non-selective manner, in accordance with international obligations. They are likewise committed to halting dangerous departures that put human lives at risk, preventing irregular migration, and combating violence associated with these, as well as trade and trafficking in persons.
Toward this end, the parties will promote effective bilateral cooperation to prevent trafficking in persons, and prosecute the implicated, as well as those committing crimes associated with migratory movement which put national security at risk, including the hijacking of aircraft and boats. All of this is in accordance with the progress made in bilateral cooperation in the area of security, in a short period of time.
Appropriate authorities in the two countries have taken the pertinent steps to coordinate and guarantee the effective implementation of this agreement, including the corresponding operational procedures among the different bodies responsible for guaranteeing the enforcement and application of the law, with a view toward preventing acts intended to mar this effort or put the security of either nation at risk.
In accordance with its international obligations and legislation, the government of the Republic of Cuba reaffirms its commitment to guarantee regular, safe, orderly migration, and to fully abide by this new agreement, having adopted the corresponding measures internally. The country will continue to guarantee the right of Cuban citizens to travel and emigrate, in accordance with migratory law. It will, at the same time, gradually adopt other measures to update current migratory policy.
Havana, January 12, 2017