For several years, it had been a permanent interest of the Cuban government to adopt a new immigration agreement with the United States to solve the serious problems that continued to affect migration relations, despite the existence of bilateral agreements in this area.
This agreement removes the commonly known "dry feet-wet feet" policy and the provisional admission program (parole) for Cuban health professionals, which Washington applied in third countries.
For several years, it had been a permanent interest of the Cuban government to adopt a new immigration agreement with the United States to solve the serious problems that continued to affect migration relations, despite the existence of bilateral agreements in this area. For the first time, Cuba formalized this proposal in 2002, which was rejected by the then President George W. Bush. A new draft immigration agreement was resubmitted in 2009, which was updated in 2010 and most recently reiterated on November 30, 2015.
After nearly a year of negotiations and encouraged by the re-establishment of diplomatic relations on July 20, 2015, based on mutual respect and political will to strengthen those ties and establish new understandings on various issues of common interest, the governments succeeded in this commitment which must contribute to the normalization of migratory relations, which have been marked since the Triumph of the Revolution by the application of aggressive policies in this area by successive US administrations that encouraged violence, irregular migration and trafficking of people, causing numerous innocent deaths.
The agreement reached is part of the disposition of Cuba, ratified by the President of the Councils of State and of Ministers, Army General Raul Castro Ruz, in his address on December 17, 2014, and repeated on numerous occasions "to sustain with the government of the United States a respectful dialogue, based on sovereign equality, to deal with the most diverse issues in a reciprocal manner, without prejudice to national independence and the self-determination of our people, (...) a position that was expressed to the Government of the United States, publicly and privately, by Fidel at different times in our long struggle, with the intention of discussing and resolving differences through negotiations, without renouncing one of our principles".
It is also consistent with the expressed willingness of the Cuban government, in the exercise of its sovereignty, to update the current migration policy and adjust it to the conditions of the present and the foreseeable future, as demonstrated by the implementation of an important group of measures from January 14, 2013.
Commonly known as the "dry feet-wet feet" policy, a blatant violation of the letter and spirit of the migratory agreements reached between Cuba and the United States in 1994 and 1995, has hitherto been a stimulus for irregular migration, trafficking of migrants and irregular entry into the United States from third countries of Cuban citizens legally traveling abroad, and by automatically admitting them to their territory, conferred preferential and unique treatment on them not received by citizens of other countries. It was an incitement to illegal exits. Its implementation and that of other policies led to migratory crises, hijacking of ships and aircraft and the commission of crimes, such as trafficking in migrants, trafficking in persons, immigration fraud and the use of violence with a destabilizing extraterritorial impact on other countries of the region, used as transit to arrive in US territory.
The decision to eliminate such a policy implies that "as of the date of this Joint Declaration, the United States of America, consistent with its laws and international norms, shall return to the Republic of Cuba, and the Republic of Cuba, consistent with its Laws and international norms, will receive all Cuban citizens, who after the signing of this agreement, are detected by the competent authorities of the United States of America when trying to enter or stay irregularly in that country, "violating its laws.
The United States also undertook to apply to the Cuban citizens that might be detected in the future with the same immigration procedures and rules in that situation as the rest of the migrants of other countries, without a criterion of selectivity, which is a positive signal in the purpose of eliminating exclusivity in the case of Cubans, who has a marked political nuance.
Likewise, the so-called Parole Program for Cuban Medical Professionals is removed, which was part of the arsenal to deprive the country of doctors, nurses and other professionals of the sector, in a virtual international operation of brain theft promoted by the United States since 2006 and an attack against Cuba's humanitarian and solidarity medical missions in Third World countries that need it so much. This policy prompted Cuban health personnel working in third countries to abandon their missions and migrate to the United States, becoming a reprehensible practice that damaged Cuba's international medical cooperation programs.
These two hurdles have disappeared on January 12, but in order to be consistent with the letter and spirit of this Joint Declaration, to ensure regular, safe and orderly migration, effectively addressing the threats to the security of both countries arising from Irregular migration, and achieving normal migratory relations between Cuba and the United States, it will also be necessary for the US Congress to repeal the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, the only one of its kind in the world that does not correspond to the current bilateral context.
Except as provided in this Joint Declaration, the other migratory agreements previously reached by Cuba and the United States remain in full force and effect: the Joint Communiqués of December 14, 1984 and September 9, 1994, and the Joint Declaration of May 2, 1995. Among other things, it confirms the decision of both parties to prevent illegal departures by sea and to return to Cuba all persons who are intercepted in those acts or who enter the Guantánamo Naval Base. The Government of the United States will continue to guarantee regular migration from Cuba with a minimum of 20,000 people per year.
Both governments agreed to apply their migration laws in a non-selective manner and in accordance with their international obligations. They also undertook to prevent risky exits that endanger human life, to prevent irregular migration and to combat the violence associated with such manifestations, such as trade and trafficking in persons.
In this regard, the parties will promote effective bilateral cooperation to prevent and prosecute those involved in trafficking in persons, as well as crimes associated with migratory movements, which endanger their national security, including the hijacking of aircraft and vessels. This is in line with the progress made in the short term in bilateral security cooperation.
The competent authorities of the two countries have undertaken the necessary coordination to ensure the effective implementation of this agreement, including corresponding operational procedures between law enforcement and enforcement bodies, with a view to preventing actions that are intended to cloud this effort or try to jeopardize the security of both nations.
In keeping with its international obligations and its legislation, the government of the Republic of Cuba ratifies its commitment to guarantee regular, safe and orderly migration, as well as to fully comply with this new agreement for which the corresponding measures have been taken internally. It will continue to guarantee the right to travel and emigrate to Cuban citizens and to return to the country, in accordance with the requirements of immigration law. It will also gradually adopt other measures to update the current migration policy.
Havana, January 12, 2017.