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Statement by Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman
December 8, 2000

U.S.-Cuba Migration Talks

The United States and Cuba have been meeting twice a year since 1994 to discuss migration matters. On Monday, December 11, 2000 a delegation led by Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs William R. Brownfield will meet with Cuban government officials in Havana for the next round of the biannual U.S.-Cuba migration talks. This meeting will review the implementation of the existing migration accords. These talks are technical in nature and deal exclusively with migration matters.

The United States is committed to full implementation of the migration accords. We believe the accords are achieving their central purpose of encouraging safe, legal, and orderly migration between our two countries. However, there are areas of concern.

We will again voice our concerns over Cuban barriers to legal and orderly immigration as called for in our accords, including disproportionately high fees, and the government of Cuba's continued denial of exit permits to certain Cuban nationals in possession of valid U.S. entry documents. We remain particularly troubled by cases involving the separation of families and by the barriers imposed by the government of Cuba against legal migration by medical professionals.

As in our previous talks, we will continue to discuss the marked shift towards organized alien smuggling of Cubans into the U.S. This form of criminal activity for profit needlessly exposes men, women, and children to loss of life or serious injury despite the existence of ample alternative means of safe, legal, and orderly migration. Both sides have expressed commitment to put a stop to this dangerous practice.

We would like to reiterate our commitment to these accords and express our belief that programs like the Special Cuban Migration Program ("The Cuban Lottery") and the Diversity Visa Program are making a difference. Moreover, they are saving lives.