Iowa State Government Encouraging Refugee and Migrant Resettlement 

As a native Iowan who was born and raised in the State and as a supporter of refugees and immigrants, I was pleasantly surprised to learn from an article in the New York Times that Iowa’s state government has adopted and is implementing various programs to encourage these people’s resettlement in the State. [1] These conclusions were corroborated by that article and the  preliminary research cited in this post.

The Iowa State Government has programs encouraging resettlement in the State by refugees and other migrants. The state’s “Republican governor, Kim Reynolds, and the state’s Department of Health and Human Services recently announced a program that supports refugees from around the world with a focus on Afghan people in particular. That includes providing grants to organizations that enhanced ‘community integration, English proficiency, digital literacy, banking and financial planning, transportation, health and wellness, services for older refugees and youth supports.” [2]

This effort is driven, in part, by Iowa’s need for more workers. “Iowa alone has over 75,000 job openings . . .[that] are depleting the state’s ability to meet growing manufacturing and service demands. Businesses are begging for workers at local economic development meetings. Employers are struggling particularly with shortages in key mid-skill industries, like health care, information and technology and tourism and hospitality.”

This article commends the following proposed immigration programs for Iowa:

  • Federal authorization of states to devise guest-worker programs under the auspices of the federal government (Department of Homeland Security) and state governments along the lines of a bill offered by U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (Rep., WI).
  • The U.S. and other countries could establish bilateral immigration agreements that “would allow U.S. employers to train workers to obtain valuable skills . . . either in the United States or abroad, and then workers could come to the U.S. states that need them.”
  • Like the State of Washington, revise Iowa’s licensing laws to create a limited license for foreign medical graduates.

One of the authors of this article is Iowan David Oman, who was chief of staff for Iowa Republican governors Robert D. Ray (1969-83) and Terry Branstad (1983-99 & 2011-17) as well as Chair of the Iowa Republican Party (1995-1993) and the 1998 Republican gubernatorial candidate for Iowa . Other authors are Iowan Robert Leonard, the news director of two Iowa radio stations, and Kristie DePena, the vice president for policy and the director of immigration policy at the Niskanen Center in Washington, D.C. and the holder of a J.D. degree from the University of Iowa College of Law.[3]

Niskanen Center[4]

The Niskanen Center asserts that it believes, “Immigration policy is not just about how we treat others; it has direct implications for Americans. Done well, immigration policy reform can protect family values, strengthen national security, reduce unemployment, spur innovation, stimulate competition, increase public safety, enhance the U.S. economy, reinforce international relations, and help those most in need. Evidence consistently shows that innovation and entrepreneurship are good for America. Supporting legal immigration through refugee resettlement programs like DACA, green cards, and more is fundamental to our success as a nation; and our humanitarian policies are a cornerstone of our nation. But, perhaps most importantly, we believe that with very few exceptions, the immigrants coming to America do so for the right reasons, and we benefit by welcoming them.” More specifically, the Center focuses on the following areas of U.S. immigration policy reform:

  1. “Encouraging the involvement of Americans in refugee sponsorship and resettlement and reforming our asylum system to expand capacity and enhance processing.”
  2. “Creating and enhancing opportunities for innovation and frontier growth in America through legalization, a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, and reformed options to work in the U.S.”
  3. “Enhancing domestic and international security and diplomacy through soft power and national security pathways.”
  4. “Repairing our immigration adjudication system by creating independent courts and reforming the criminalization and prosecution of immigrants in the states.”
  5. “Encouraging the involvement of Americans in refugee sponsorship and resettlement and reforming our asylum system to expand capacity and enhance processing.”
  6. “Creating and enhancing opportunities for innovation and frontier growth in America through legalization, a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, and reformed options to work in the U.S.”
  7. “Enhancing domestic and international security and diplomacy through soft power and national security pathways.”
  8. “Repairing our immigration adjudication system by creating independent courts and reforming the criminalization and prosecution of immigrants in the states.”
  9. “Encouraging the involvement of Americans in refugee sponsorship and resettlement and reforming our asylum system to expand capacity and enhance processing.”
  10. “Creating and enhancing opportunities for innovation and frontier growth in America through legalization, a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, and reformed options to work in the U.S.”

Reactions

Congratulations to the government of the State of Iowa for this strong support for refugees and other immigrants.

However, the authors of this article fail to recognize the powerful resistance to immigration efforts in the U.S. Senate by Iowa’s senior U.S. Senator, Republican Charles Grassley. For example, in the last session of Congress Grassley blocked the passage of the Afghan Adjustment Act, which would have prevented Afghan evacuees in the U.S. from being stranded without legal residency status when their humanitarian paroles expire in August 2023 and would have allowed them to apply for U.S. citizenship. [5]

The citizens of  Iowa need to press Grassley to reverse course and immediately press for passage of the Afghan Adjustment Act and to take other steps to encourage resettlement of  immigrants in the State.

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[1]  Over 75,000 Job Openings in Iowa Alone. Millions of Refugees Seeking Work. Make the Connection, N.Y. Times (Feb.2, 2023)..

[2] See n.1; Iowa HHS Expands Support for Refugees; Announces RFP to provide wraparound supports, and other key initiatives (Jan. 6, 2023); Iowa Dep’t of Health & Human Resources, Iowa HHS Expands Support for Refugees; (Jan. 6, 2023); Iowa Dep’t of Health & Human Resources; Afghanistan Resources; Iowa Dep’t of Health & Human Resources, Ukraine Resources; Iowa Dep’t of Health & Human Resources, Venezuelan Resources; Iowa Dep’t of Health & Human Resources, History of the Bureau of Refugee Services; Iowa Dep’t of Health & Human Resources, Frequently Asked Questions.

[3]  David Oman, Iowa Capital Dispatch.

[4] Niskanen Center, Our Mission; Niskanen Center, Immigration: What We BelieveNiskanen Center Annual Report 2022.

[5] Amiri (AP), Afghan refugees’ status uncertain after U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley blocks residency bill, Des Moines Register (Dec. 30, 2022). See also these posts to dwkcommentaries.com: Need To Prod Congress To Enact the Afghan Adjustment Act (Dec. 17, 2022); Apparent Failure To Enact Bipartisan Immigration Bills (Dec. 18, 2022); Comment: Retired U.S. Military Leaders Support Afghan Adjustment Act (Dec. 19, 2022); Congress Fails To Adopt Important Immigration Legislation (Dec. 28, 2022); Comment: Other Reactions to Failure To Adopt Immigration Legislation (Dec.31, 2022).

 

U.S. and Cuba Resume Law Enforcement Dialogue   

On January 18-19, 2023, the United States and Cuba in Havana resumed their Law Enforcement Dialogue, which last operated, 2015-18 during President Obama’s efforts to re-establish a more peaceful and collaborative relationship between the two countries.[1]

The Departments of State, Homeland Security, and Justice co-chaired the dialogue for the United States.  The U.S. delegation included representatives from the Department of State’s Bureaus of Western Hemisphere Affairs and Office of the Legal Adviser; the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Strategy, Policy, and Plans, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Coast Guard; and the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, and Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Officials from the U.S. Embassy in Havana also participated.

According to the State Department, this “type of dialogue enhances the national security of the United States through improved international law enforcement coordination, which enables the United States to better protect U.S. citizens and bring transnational criminals to justice. These dialogues strengthen the United States’ ability to combat criminal actors by increasing cooperation on a range of law enforcement matters, including human trafficking, narcotics, and other criminal cases.  Enhanced law enforcement coordination is in the best interests of the United States and the Cuban people.  This dialogue does not impact the administration’s continued focus on critical human rights issues in Cuba, which is always central to our engagement.”

The Cuban Foreign Ministry said that the Dialogue was held on January 18 and 19 and that they discussed “cooperation in the fight against scourges that threaten the security of both countries, such as terrorism, smuggling of migrants and immigration fraud, among others.” The Cuban Ministry added that their delegation transferred “information and proposals for cooperation . . . on the activities of persons based in the United States, identified as being linked to terrorism, illegal trafficking of persons and other illicit activities.”  Cuba also said the two countries “agreed to continue this dialogue and to hold other technical meetings between the law enforcement agencies of the two countries in order to materialize bilateral cooperation.”[2]

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[1] U.S. State Dep’t, United States and Cuba Resume Law Enforcement Dialogue (Jan. 19, 2023); US Sending Delegation to Cuba to Restart Talks on Law Enforcement, VA (Jan. 12, 2023); See posts listed in the following: sections of List of Posts to dwkcommentaries—Topical: Cuba [as of 5/4/20]: U.S. (Obama) and Cuba Relations (Normalization, 2014; U.S. (Obama) and Cuba Relations (Normalization), 2015;U.S. (Obama) and Cuba Relations (Normalization), 2016; U.S. (Obama) and Cuba Relations (Normalization), 2017.

[2] Cuba Foreign Ministry, Cuba and the United States discuss terrorism and migration, (Jan. 20, 2023).

 

Department of Homeland Security Announces Important Proposed Rules To Improve Immigration Laws and Border Security

On January 5, 2023, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security  (DHS) announced that it is continuing to prepare for (a) “the end of the Title 42 public health order” that calls for the U.S. to refuse to admit certain migrants at the U.S. borders and (b) the “return to processing all noncitizens under the Department’s Title 8 immigration authorities.” [1}

To that end, the DHS announcement stated the following:

  • “DHS is establishing new parole processes for Cubans, Haitians, and Nicaraguans, modeled on the successful processes for Venezuelans and Ukrainians, which combine safe, orderly, and lawful pathways to the United States, including authorization to work, with significant consequences for those who fail to use those pathways. We are also continuing the process with respect to Venezuelans.”
  • “Through the CBP One app, we are also providing a new mechanism for noncitizens to schedule appointments to present themselves at ports of entry, facilitating safe and orderly arrivals. Initially this will be used for those seeking an exception from the Title 42 public health order. Once the Title 42 order is no longer in place, CBP One will be used to help ensure safe and orderly processing at ports of entry.”
  • “DHS is increasing and enhancing the use of expedited removal under Title 8 authorities for those who cannot be processed under the Title 42 public health order. These efforts include surging personnel and resources and enrolling individuals under the asylum processing interim final rule published in March 2022.”
  • “As a complement to these efforts, and in response to the unprecedented surge in migration across the hemisphere and to reduce encounters at our border, DHS and the Department of Justice (DOJ) intend to shortly issue a proposed rule that will, subject to public comment, incentivize the use of the new and existing lawful processes available in the Unites States and partner nations, and place certain conditions on asylum eligibility for those who fail to do so.”
  • “DHS will continue to monitor developments on the southwest border and will accelerate or implement additional measures, as needed, consistent with applicable court orders.”

The DHS Secretary, Alejandro N. Mayorkas, commented on these changes: “We can provide humanitarian relief consistent with our values, cut out vicious smuggling organizations, and enforce our laws.  Individuals without a legal basis to remain in the United States will be subject to prompt expulsion or removal. Individuals who are provided a safe, orderly, and lawful path to the United States are less likely to risk their lives traversing thousands of miles in the hands of ruthless smugglers, only to arrive at our southern border and face the legal consequences of unlawful entry.”

Country-Specific Enforcement Processes

Last October DHS established “a safe and lawful pathway” for Ukrainians and Venezuelans to enter the U.S. and “a consequence for failing to use that pathway,” and the January 5th announcement “establishes similar processes for Cubans, Haitian, and Nicaraguan nationals who face unique challenges in their home countries” while “the Venezuelan process also will continue.”

“These processes will provide a lawful and streamlined way for qualifying nationals of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela to apply to come to the United States, without having to make the dangerous journey to the border. Through a fully online process, individuals can seek advance authorization to travel to the United States and be considered, on a case-by-case basis, for a temporary grant of parole for up to two years, including employment authorization, provided that they: pass rigorous biometric and biographic national security and public safety screening and vetting; have a supporter in the United States who commits to providing financial and other support; and complete vaccinations and other public health requirements. . . .These processes will allow up to 30,000 qualifying nationals per month from all four of these countries to reside legally in the United States for up to two years and to receive permission to work here, during that period.”

However, this new process “is contingent on the Government of Mexico’s willingness to accept the return or removal of nationals from those countries. It also is responsive to a request from the Government of Mexico to provide additional legal pathways for migrants, and it advances both countries’ interests in addressing the effects throughout the hemisphere of deteriorated conditions in these countries.”

Safe and Orderly Processes at Ports of Entry

“To facilitate the safe and orderly arrival of noncitizens seeking an exception from the Title 42 public health order, DHS is expanding use of the free CBP One mobile app for noncitizens to schedule arrival times at [the following] ports of entry: [Arizona: Nogales; Texas: Brownsville, Hidalgo, Laredo, Eagle Pass, and El Paso (Paso Del Norte); and California: Calexico and San Ysidro (Pedestrian West – El Chaparral).]”

“Individuals do not need to be at the border to schedule an appointment; expanded access to the app in Central Mexico is designed to discourage noncitizens from congregating near the border in unsafe conditions. Initially, this new scheduling function will allow noncitizens to schedule a time and place to come to a port of entry to seek an exception from the Title 42 public health order for humanitarian reasons based on an individualized assessment of vulnerability. This will replace the current process for individuals seeking exceptions from the Title 42 public health order, which requires noncitizens to submit requests through third party organizations located near the border.”

“Once the Title 42 public health order is no longer in place, this scheduling mechanism will be available for noncitizens, including those who seek to make asylum claims, to schedule a time to present themselves at a port of entry for inspection and processing, rather than arriving unannounced at a port of entry or attempting to cross in-between ports of entry. Those who use this process will generally be eligible for work authorization during their period of authorized stay.”

“During their inspection process, noncitizens must verbally attest to their COVID-19 vaccination status and provide, upon request, proof of vaccination against COVID-19 in accordance with Title 19 vaccination requirements.”

Enhanced Use of Expedited Removal

“We will comply with the court orders that require us to continue enforcing the Title 42 public health order. There are, however, migrants who cannot be expelled pursuant to Title 42 authorities and as a result are processed under Title 8 authorities. For those processed under Title 8, we are increasing and enhancing our use of expedited removal, which allows for the prompt removal of those who do not claim a fear of persecution or torture or are determined not to have a credible fear after an interview with an Asylum Officer, in accordance with established procedures.”

“This enhanced expedited removal process will include: dedicating additional resources including personnel, transportation, and facilities; optimizing processes across DHS and DOJ; and working with the State Department and countries in the region to increase repatriations. We also will continue to process individuals under the interim final rule published in March 2022 outlining procedures for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to process asylum requests for noncitizens found to have a credible fear. Together, these measures will allow for the prompt removal of those who do not have a legal basis to stay and improve our overall preparedness for when the Title 42 public health order is lifted. Individuals removed under Title 8 are subject to a five-year bar on admission and potential criminal prosecution should they seek to reenter.”

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

“DHS and DOJ intend to issue a proposed rule to provide that individuals who circumvent available, established pathways to lawful migration, and also fail to seek protection in a country through which they traveled on their way to the United States, will be subject to a rebuttable presumption of asylum ineligibility in the United States unless they meet exceptions that will be specified. Individuals who cannot establish a valid claim to protection under the standards set out in the new rule will be subject to prompt removal under Title 8 authorities, which carries a five-year ban on reentry.”

“Taken together, these efforts will: reduce irregular migration by disincentivizing migrants from taking the dangerous journey to the southwest border of the United States and attempting to cross without authorization; significantly expand lawful pathways to the United States for vetted individuals; and reduce the role for – and profits of – smuggling networks that callously endanger migrants’ lives for personal gain.”

“These new measures complement ongoing efforts to increase refugee resettlement from the Western Hemisphere. The U.S. Government intends to welcome at least 20,000 refugees from Latin America and the Caribbean in Fiscal Year 2023 and 2024, putting the United States on pace to more than triple refugee admissions from the Western Hemisphere this Fiscal Year alone. This delivers on the President’s commitment under the Los Angeles Declaration for Migration and Protection to scale up refugee admissions from the Western Hemisphere.”

DHS “is taking these measures in light of Congress’s failure to pass the comprehensive immigration reform measures President Biden proposed on his first day in office and the economic and political instability around the world that is fueling the highest levels of migration since World War II, including throughout the Western Hemisphere. . . . The actions announced today are part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s ongoing commitment to enforce our laws and build a fair, orderly, and humane immigration system, and build on efforts outlined in the Department’s December 2022 Update on Southwest Border Security and Preparedness. Today’s announcements also show the imperative of partner countries working together, as agreed in the Los Angeles Declaration following the Summit of the Americas, to take action against smugglers and provide protection to asylum seekers. Hemispheric challenges require hemispheric solutions.”

“The steps we are taking reflect the constraints of our outdated statutes, which have not been updated in decades and were designed to address a fundamentally different migratory reality than that which exists today along the southwest border and around the world. As it has since its first day in office, the Biden-Harris Administration continues to call on Congress to pass legislation that strengthens border security, holistically addresses the root causes of migration, and improves legal pathways. We also encourage Congress to provide critical funding and advance bipartisan efforts to create a fair, fast, and functioning asylum system – enabling those who merit protection to quickly receive it, and those who do not to quickly be removed. In the absence of such action, the Administration is committed to pursuing every avenue within its authority to secure our borders, enforce our laws, and stay true to our values as we build safe, orderly, and humane processes.”

This Blog’s Reaction to the DHS Announcement

This blog recently has criticized the failures of Congress and the Administration to attempt to modify and update the many failings in our immigration laws.[2] Thus, DHS needs to be congratulated for making this timely and cogent announcement of ways to meet these challenges while all others involved in making, enforcing and complying with these laws need to rise to the challenges.

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[1]  DHS, DHS Continues to Prepare for the End of Title 42; Announces New border Enforcement Measures and Additional Safe and Orderly Processes (Jan.5, 2023).

[2] See these posts to dwkcommentaries.com: Need To Prod Congress To Enact the Afghan Adjustment Act (Dec. 17, 2022); Apparent Failure To Enact Bipartisan Immigration Bills (Dec. 18, 2022); Comment: Retired U.S. Military Leaders Support Afghan Adjustment Act (Dec. 19, 2022); Congress Fails To Adopt Important Immigration Legislation (Dec. 28, 2022); Comment: Omnibus Act Creates 4,000 New Special Visas for Afghans (Dec. 29, 2022); Comment: Speculative Interpretation of Supreme Court Decision of Title 42 Case (Dec. 29, 2022); Comment: Other Reactions to Failure To Adopt Immigration Reform (Dec. 31, 2022); U.S. Procedures for Resettlement of Ukrainians (Jan.3, 2023).

 

 

 

 

 

More Criticism of U.S. Means of Addressing Immigration Needs of Afghan Evacuees  

This blog previously discussed the complexity of meeting the U.S. immigration needs of Afghan evacuees, estimated at 65,000 to 199,000 less than two weeks ago.[1] This analysis has been underscored by John T. Medeiros, an experienced U.S. immigration attorney and the Chair of the Minnesota/Dakotas Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.[2]

According to Medeiros, this subject was the focus of a recent conference call with nearly 100 immigration lawyers across the U.S.

He noted that he and many other immigration lawyers have been focused on assisting “family members and friends of Afghan allies in applying for humanitarian parole, which the federal Immigration Service says “is used to bring someone who is otherwise inadmissible to the United States for a temporary period of time due to an emergency.”

This conference call emphasized the following current status of this situation:

  • “Within the past two months there have been over 17,000 applications for humanitarian parole filed with the USCIS.”
  • “Each application includes a filing fee of $575; in the past two months the USCIS has received an estimated $9.8 million in fees.”
  • “While there is an option to request a fee waiver, almost all applications filed with a fee waiver have been rejected by the USCIS.”
  • “For the pending 17,000 applications there are a total of six USCIS adjudicators.”
  • “Since Sept. 1, USCIS has not processed any applications for individuals still in Afghanistan.”
  • “Since that same date, USCIS has processed ‘a handful of applications’ for Afghan nationals displaced in a third country.”
  • “USCIS is expected to soon announce its plans to adjudicate those applications that remain pending, with priority given to individuals who are not physically in Afghanistan. The rationale for this decision is that third-country nationals would be able to obtain the required travel permission in the form of a visa at a U.S. consular post in the third country, while visa services have been suspended within Afghanistan.”
  • “It is unclear if [U.S.] visas will be issued to displaced Afghan nationals who are not in possession of a valid passport.”

This horrible situation, said Medeiros, caused the participants in this conference call to demand the following actions:

“[We] call on Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to immediately allocate sufficient resources to the USCIS for the swift adjudication of the pending 17,000 applications for humanitarian parole and to approve applications for fee waivers for applicants who meet the eligibility criteria.”

“After these applications have been approved, we call on Secretary of State Antony Blinken to expedite the vetting process and the issuance of visas to displaced Afghan nationals, including those who are not in possession of a valid passport.”

“[We] call on the office of the White House to authorize the U.S. Department of Defense to send military flights to countries with concentrations of displaced Afghan nationals, and evacuate those with valid claims to asylum, Special Immigrant Visas or any other immigration benefit.”

“[We] call on Congress to swiftly pass the Afghan Adjustment Act, which would provide a path to permanent residence for those Afghan evacuees who have risked their lives in support of U.S. military efforts. It is the least we can do to honor the sacrifices our Afghan allies have made for the benefit of American democracy.”

Conclusion

These recommendations are endorsed by this blogger, who is a retired lawyer who did not specialize in immigration law, but who in the mid-1980s learned certain aspects of immigration and asylum law and then served as a pro bono lawyer for asylum seekers from El Salvador and other countries.[3]

This endorsement is also buttressed by my current service on the Refugee Co-Sponsorship Team at Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church, which is now co-sponsoring an Afghan family with the assistance of the Minnesota Council of Churches. [4]

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[1]  Immense Problems Hampering U.S. Efforts To Resettle Afghans, dwkcommentaries.com (Oct. 22, 2021).

[2] Medeiros, We’re still failing Afghan allies. Why no outrage?, StarTribune (Nov. 2, 2021); John t. Medeiros [Biography];  American Immigration Lawyers Association, Minnesota/Dakotas Chapter.

[3]  Becoming a Pro Bono Asylum Lawyer, dwkcommentareis.com (May 24, 2011); My Pilgrimage to El Salvador, April 1989, dwkcommentaries.com (May 25,  2011); Teaching the International Human Rights Course, dwkcommentaries.com (July 1, 2011).

[4]  Schulze, Campbell & Krohnke, Our Sojourners Have Arrived, Westminster News, p.7  (Nov. 2021).

U.S. and Cuba Continue To Confer Over Common Concerns 

Despite various Trump Administration’s hostile actions regarding Cuba, the two countries continue to confer over common concerns. Three such conferences occurred this week in Washington, D.C..[1]

Conference on Money Laundering [2]

On February 12, 2018, the two countries met in Washington, D.C. to discuss combatting the crime of money laundering. This exchange, which falls within the context of the law enforcement dialogue between both countries, provided both parties with the opportunity to discuss this crime at a regional level, the main experiences gained in combatting this crime and the next steps that would be taken to advance the bilateral collaboration on this matter. 

The Cuban representatives underscored the necessity to increase the two countries’  cooperation and both parties shared the view that determined action is required against these acts and against those who commit them and the consensus was that impunity cannot be permitted.

The Cuban delegation also stated that for the comprehensive analysis of these issues, Cuba favors the exchange in different forums, mainly of the U.N. system. In addition, the Cuban government actively collaborates with the Financial Action Task Force of Latin America (GAFILAT), a regional inter-governmental organization to prevent and combat money laundering, terrorist financing and the funding of the proliferation of mass-destruction weapons. In its Mutual Evaluation Reports, GAFILAT acknowledges that the general risk for money laundering and terrorist financing in Cuba is low, highlights the inter-institutional coordination and cooperation existing at all levels in the country to combat these crimes and the updated legal framework Cuba has for this purpose.

The Cuban delegation was composed of representatives of the Ministry of the Interior, Banco Central de Cuba, the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The U.S. delegation was composed of officials of the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, State, Health and Human Services and Treasury.

This was the second such meeting and took place in a respectful and professional ambience. Both parties agreed to continue with these technical exchanges in the future and to coordinate actions that may contribute to the effective combat against this crime.

Conference on Human Trafficking [3]

On February 13, 2018, at the U.S. State Department the parties met to give updates on the advances made, experiences gained and the challenges faced in the prevention of, and combat against, trafficking in persons and protection of victims.

Cuba emphasized its ratification of the zero-tolerance national policy against human trafficking, adoption of a National Plan of Action for 2017-2020 to Prevent and Combat Trafficking in Persons and to Protect the Victims thereof, the establishment of  a Commission to implement the multidisciplinary actions contained in said Plan, and the results of the visit to Cuba by Ms. María Grazia Giammarinaro, U.N. Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children.

Cuba also mentioned its establishment of a Family Protection Division and the operation of a Unique Telephone Line of the Attorney General’s Office; its specialized training seminars for prosecutors, judges and law enforcement officers, the workshops and training courses for educators, and the celebration of the World Day against Trafficking in Persons. In addition, Cuba stresses the preventive nature of its National Health System and the important role played by the Cuban medical doctors in the early detection and attention of potential victims of human trafficking, both in Cuba and in other countries where our nation provides medical cooperation.

In 2016, 21 cases were prosecuted in Cuba for crimes with typical features of trafficking in persons, through the typified crimes of “Corruption of Minors” and “Procurement and Trafficking in Persons”. In this same period, Cuba maintained international collaboration for the investigation and solution of cases transcending the national territory.

Cuba also asserted that the low incidence of trafficking in persons in Cuba is associated with its social and public safety achievements, equal opportunities and policies and programs aimed at empowering women, providing free access to health services, education, culture and sports, which reduces the country’s vulnerability and strengthens its capacity to increase international cooperation in this field, as a State Party to the legal instruments signed on this and other related matters.

This was the fifth such bilateral meeting on this subject since December 2014, the last occurring in January 2017, and both parties ratified the usefulness of the exchange, which took place in a professional and respectful ambiance, and agreed to continue holding these exchanges in the future.

Conference on Technical Issues About Human Trafficking [4]

On February 14, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security hosted a technical exchange on trafficking in persons, one of the eight working-level exchanges under the U.S.-Cuba Law Enforcement Dialogue. Participants discussed best practices on investigations and prosecutions, human trafficking trends in the region, and potential areas of coordination to fight the scourge of trafficking, which threatens national security and public health and safety in both countries.

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[1] Other posts to dwkcommentaries have discussed other U.S.-Cuba bilateral meetings in the Trump Administration: U.S. and Cuba Hold Discussions About Human Trafficking and Migration Fraud (Dec. 10, 2017); U.S. and Cuba Hold Bilateral Migration Talks (Dec. 12, 2017); Cuba and U.S. Continue To Hold Bilateral Meetings on Various Issues (Jan. 18, 2018).

[2] Cuba Foreign Ministry, Cuba and the United States hold exchange on the cooperation to prevent and combat money laundry (Feb. 13, 2018). 

[3] Cuba Foreign Ministry, Delegations from Cuba and the United States Hold Exchange on Trafficking in Persons (Feb. 13, 2018); U.S. State Dep’t, United States and Cuba Meet to Combat Trafficking in Persons (Feb.14, 2018).

[4]  U.S. State Dep’t, United States and Cuba Meet to Combat Trafficking in Persons (Feb.14, 2018); Cuba Foreign Ministry, Cuba and the USA carry out technical exchanges on trafficking in persons and child sexual abuse (Feb. 14, 2018).

USCIS Moves Field Office from Havana to Mexico City

On December 22, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that effective immediately it will “temporarily suspend operations at its field office in Havana“ and its “field office in Mexico city, Mexico will assume Havana’s jurisdiction, which includes only Cuba.” The stated reason for the change was “staff reductions at the U.S. Embassy in Havana.” Detailed instructions for filing certain forms for individuals living in Cuba are set forth in the USCIS announcement cited below.[1]

This change will have a negative effect on “family reunification and granting of visas,” said Cuba Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla.

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[1] U.S. Dep’t Homeland Security, Updated USCIS Procedures for Cuba (Dec. 22, 2017); Washington moves its Immigration Office in Cuba to Mexico, Granma (Dec. 23, 2017); Washington decides to move “temporarily” to Mexico its immigration office in Cuba, CubaDebate (Dec. 22, 2017).

President Obama Issues Presidential Policy Directive—United States-Cuba Normalization        

On October 14, U.S. President Barack Obama issued a “Presidential Policy Directive on U.S.-Cuba Normalization,” which is a document that promulgates presidential decisions on national security matters.[1] This post will set forth the entire Directive, and a subsequent post will comment on various aspects of the Directive.

This Directive: (1) describes the U.S. vision for normalization with Cuba and how our policy aligns with U.S. national security interests; (2) assesses progress toward normalization; (3) describes the current and foreseen strategic landscape; (4) describes priority objectives for normalization; and (5) directs actions required to implement this PPD.

“Vision for U.S.-Cuba Normalization”

 President Obama’s “vision for U.S.-Cuba normalization reflects [his] Administration’s support for broad-based economic growth, stability, increased people-to-people ties, and respect for human rights and democratic values in the region. In the long-term, the United States seeks the following end-states:”

“1. Enhanced security of the United States and U.S. citizens at home and abroad. We seek to ensure U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba are safe and secure and the [U.S.] is protected from: those seeking to exploit increased connectivity for illicit ends, irregular migration, and natural or man-made hazards. Our policy advances bilateral cooperation in areas of mutual interest, including diplomatic, agricultural, public health, and environmental matters, as well as disaster preparedness and response, law enforcement, migration, and other security and defense topics. Our policy also supports increased cooperation with Cuba on regional initiatives on behalf of these interests.”

“2. A prosperous, stable Cuba that offers economic opportunities to its people. Increased travel and economic interconnectedness supports improved livelihoods for the Cuban people, deeper economic engagement between our two countries, as well as the development of a private sector that provides greater economic opportunities for the Cuban people. Efforts by the Cuban authorities to liberalize economic policy would aid these goals and further enable broader engagement with different sectors of the Cuban economy. United States policy helps U.S. businesses gain access to Cuban markets and encourages the sustainable growth of the Cuban economy. The U.S. private sector, scientific and medical researchers, agriculture industry, foundations, and other groups have new avenues for collaboration that can provide opportunities for Cuban entrepreneurs, scientists, farmers, and other professionals. At the same time, increased access to the internet is boosting Cubans’ connectivity to the wider world and expanding the ability of the Cuban people, especially youth, to exchange information and ideas. The [U.S.] is prepared to support Cuban government policies that promote social equality and independent economic activity.”

“3. Increased respect for individual rights in Cuba. Even as we pursue normalization, we recognize we will continue to have differences with the Cuban government. We will continue to speak out in support of human rights, including the rights to freedoms of expression, religion, association, and peaceful assembly as we do around the world. Our policy is designed to support Cubans’ ability to exercise their universal human rights and fundamental freedoms, with the expectation that greater commerce will give a broader segment of the Cuban people the information and resources they need to achieve a prosperous and sustainable future. In pursuit of these objectives, we are not seeking to impose regime change on Cuba; we are, instead, promoting values that we support around the world while respecting that it is up to the Cuban people to make their own choices about their future.”

“4. Integration of Cuba into international and regional systems. We seek Cuban government participation in regional and international fora, including but not limited to, those related to the Organization of American States (OAS) and Summit of the Americas to advance mutually held member objectives. We believe that a Cuba that subscribes to the purposes and standards of such fora will benefit, over time, from bringing its domestic economic and political practices in line with international norms and globally accepted standards. Our policy strengthens the U.S. position in international systems by removing an irritant from our relationships with our allies and partners and gaining support for a rules-based order.”

“Progress Toward U.S.-Cuba Normalization”

“Since the [U.S.] announced on December 17, 2014, that it would chart a new course with Cuba, we have re-established diplomatic relations and have made progress toward the normalization of our bilateral relationship. We opened our respective embassies, six U.S. cabinet secretaries visited Havana, four Cuban ministers visited the United States, and I became the first sitting U.S. President to visit Cuba since 1928. We established a Bilateral Commission to prioritize areas of engagement, and we concluded non-binding arrangements on environmental protection, marine sanctuaries, public health and biomedical research, agriculture, counternarcotics, trade and travel security, civil aviation, direct transportation of mail, and hydrography. We launched dialogues or discussions on law enforcement cooperation, regulatory issues, economic issues, claims, and internet and telecommunications policy.”

“Given Cuba’s proximity to the United States, increased engagement by U.S. citizens, companies, and the nongovernmental sector holds extraordinary promise for supporting our national interests. Bearing in mind the limits imposed by the Cuban Liberty and Democratic (LIBERTAD) Solidarity Act of 1996 (“Libertad Act”) and other relevant statutes, the Departments of the Treasury and Commerce implemented six packages of regulatory amendments to the Cuba sanctions program, easing restrictions on travel, trade, and financial transactions. [U.S.] individuals, firms, and nongovernmental organizations are availing themselves of these regulatory changes to visit Cuba, and authorized travel to Cuba increased by more than 75 percent from 2014 to 2015. Future U.S. citizen travel will be supported by scheduled air service, which began in August 2016, and the first U.S. cruise liner visited Cuban ports in May 2016. We also commenced direct transportation of mail between our two countries, and U.S. telecommunications firms established direct voice and roaming agreements with Cuba. For its part, the Cuban government has continued to pursue incremental economic reforms and launched more than 100 public Wi-Fi hotspots across the island.”

“These developments lay the foundation for long-term engagement with Cuba that advances U.S. interests. But we have a great deal more to do to build on that foundation based on a realistic assessment of the strategic landscape surrounding normalization.”

“Strategic Landscape”

“Cuba is experiencing several transitions in areas such as leadership, the economy, technological development, civil society, and regional and global integration. Cuba’s leaders recognize the need to transition to the next generation, but they prioritize gradual, incremental changes to ensure stability.”

“Cuba has important economic potential rooted in the dynamism of its people, as well as a sustained commitment in areas like education and health care. Yet the Cuban government faces significant economic challenges, including eliminating its dual-exchange-rate system, making its state-run enterprises more efficient and transparent, developing a financial system that provides expanded services to individuals and the private sector, and reducing its reliance on foreign subsidies. Cuba remains highly dependent on food and energy imports, yet must cope with limited sources of hard currency to pay for import needs. Significant emigration of working-age Cubans further exacerbates Cuba’s demographic problem of a rapidly aging population.”

“A series of statutes limits U.S. economic engagement with Cuba, precluding a complete lifting of restrictions on U.S. travel to Cuba, prohibiting United States Government export assistance and the provision of U.S. credit for Cuban purchases of agricultural commodities, and requiring that the embargo not be suspended or terminated unless the President determines that a transition or democratically elected government has come to power in Cuba.”

“Due to Cuba’s legal, political, and regulatory constraints, its economy is not generating adequate foreign exchange to purchase U.S. exports that could flow from the easing of the embargo. Even if the U.S. Congress were to lift the embargo, Cubans would not realize their potential without continued economic reform in Cuba. Cuban government regulations and opaque procurement practices hamper transactions with U.S. companies that would be permitted under U.S. law.”

“Normalization efforts have raised Cubans’ expectations for greater economic opportunities. With an estimated 1 in 4 working Cubans engaged in entrepreneurship, a dynamic, independent private sector is emerging. Expansion of the private sector has increased resources for individual Cubans and created nascent openings for Cuban entrepreneurs to engage with U.S. firms and nongovernmental organizations. We take note of the Cuban government’s limited, but meaningful steps to expand legal protections and opportunities for small- and medium-sized businesses, which, if expanded and sustained, will improve the investment climate.”

“Cuba is not a member of international financial institutions (IFIs), such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank, which could provide expertise and potentially finance economic reforms and viable investment projects.”

“Although Cuba has reached agreement with several creditor nations on bilateral debt relief through restructuring and forgiveness, it remains in default to the United States Government on pre-Cuban revolution bilateral debts and does not participate in international capital markets. Cuba and the United States are both members of the World Trade Organization (WTO); however, neither country applies the agreement to the other because of the U.S. embargo toward Cuba.”

“Rapprochement has enabled us to increase our engagement with Cuba on regional issues such as the Colombia peace process and healthcare in Haiti, and has undermined an historic rallying point for regimes critical of the [U.S.]. Although Cuba has expressed no interest in participating in the OAS, it did attend the Summit of the Americas in 2015. We also welcome engagement between Cuba and other U.S. allies from around the world, including our European and Asian treaty allies. At the same time, we recognize that Cuba and the [U.S.] will continue to have differences on many regional and global issues.”

“U.S. engagement with the Cuban government will also be constrained by Cuba’s continued repression of civil and political liberties. We anticipate the Cuban government will continue to object to U.S. migration policies and operations, democracy programs, Radio and TV Marti, the U.S. presence at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station, and the embargo. The [U.S.] Government has no intention to alter the existing lease treaty and other arrangements related to the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station, which enables the [U.S.] to enhance and preserve regional security.”

“In this strategic environment, the policies and actions the [U.S.] pursues to advance our vision for U.S.-Cuba normalization will significantly shape the future of bilateral and regional relations, as well as our shared security and prosperity.”

“U.S. Objectives for the Medium-Term U.S.-Cuba Relationship”

“To advance the four end-state goals associated with our strategic vision for U.S.-Cuba normalization, the [U.S.] will move concurrently on the following six priority objectives:

1. Government-to-Government Interaction

“We will continue high-level and technical engagement in areas of mutual interest, including agriculture, the economy and small businesses, transportation, science and technology, environment, climate, health, law enforcement, migration, national security, disaster preparedness and response, and counterterrorism. Through the Bilateral Commission, we will identify and prioritize areas of collaboration and engagement that advance our end-state goals. Stronger diplomatic ties will enable constructive engagement on bilateral differences, including our democracy and broadcasting programs, while protecting our interests and assets, such as the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station. We will utilize engagement to urge Cuba to make demonstrable progress on human rights and religious freedom. As the [U.S.] and Cuban governments build trust through more frequent engagement, we will increasingly conduct working-level interactions between Cuban ministries and U.S. agencies and departments that lessen the need for high-level conversations on routine matters. Given the lack of diplomatic relations over the past several decades, we will seek broad engagement across the Cuban government, including ministries and local officials. When appropriate and legally available, we will engage with Cuba to normalize trade relations fully.”

“2. Engagement and Connectivity

“The [U.S.] will continue to encourage people-to-people linkages through government and privately sponsored exchanges, including those involving educational, cultural, business, science, environment, technology, and sports. As permitted by law, we will continue to support the development of scheduled and chartered air service and maritime links, including ferries. An ongoing partnership with the Cuban-American community is of particular importance given Cuban-Americans’ strong family and socio-cultural ties, as well as their natural role as citizen-ambassadors. We will facilitate opportunities for Cuban-Americans to rebuild and create new bonds with family to support reconciliation. To facilitate Cuba’s goal of increasing its internet access from 5 percent to 50 percent of the population by 2020, we will seek the establishment of a bilateral working group to expand internet connectivity. We will seek opportunities that enable U.S. foundations and universities to establish linkages with Cuba.”

3. Expanded Commerce

“The [U.S.] Government will seek to expand opportunities for U.S. companies to engage with Cuba. The embargo is outdated and should be lifted. My Administration has repeatedly called upon the Congress to lift the embargo, and we will continue to work toward that goal. While the embargo remains in place, our role will be to pursue policies that enable authorized U.S. private sector engagement with Cuba’s emerging private sector and with state-owned enterprises that provide goods and services to the Cuban people. Law enforcement cooperation will ensure that authorized commerce and authorized travelers move rapidly between the [U.S.] and Cuba. Although we recognize the priority given to state-owned enterprises in the Cuban model, we seek to encourage reforms that align these entities with international norms, especially transparency.”

“[U.S.] regulatory changes have created space for the Cuban government to introduce comparable changes. In tandem with the Department of the Treasury’s regulatory change to expand Cuba’s access to the U.S. financial system and U.S. dollar transit accounts, the Cuban government announced in early 2016 plans to eliminate the 10 percent penalty on U.S. dollar conversion transactions, subject to improved access to the international banking system. We will sustain private and public efforts to explain our regulatory changes to U.S. firms and banks, Cuban entrepreneurs, and the Cuban government.”

4. Economic Reform

“While the Cuban government pursues its economic goals based on its national priorities, we will utilize our expanded cooperation to support further economic reforms by the Cuban government. Recent exchanges among financial service institutions and regulators have provided greater mutual understanding of our respective financial systems and economic priorities. We will undertake government-to-government dialogues to discuss options for macro- and microeconomic reform, with the goal of connecting the changes in U.S. policy with Cuban reforms in a manner that creates opportunity for U.S. firms and the Cuban people.”

“If and when the Congress lifts the embargo, my Administration will engage with the Congress and stakeholders on preparatory commercial and economic exchanges and dialogues. My Administration would then similarly engage the Congress on the substance and timing of a new bilateral commercial agreement to address remaining statutory trade requirements.”

5. Respect for Universal Human Rights, Fundamental Freedoms, and Democratic Values

We will not pursue regime change in Cuba. We will continue to make clear that the [U.S.] cannot impose a different model on Cuba because the future of Cuba is up to the Cuban people. We seek greater Cuban government respect for universal human rights and fundamental freedoms for every individual. Progress in this area will have a positive impact on the other objectives. We will encourage the Cuban government to respect human rights; support Cuba’s emerging, broad-based civil society; and encourage partners and nongovernmental actors to join us in advocating for reforms. While remaining committed to supporting democratic activists as we do around the world, we will also engage community leaders, bloggers, activists, and other social issue leaders who can contribute to Cuba’s internal dialogue on civic participation. We will continue to pursue engagements with civil society through the U.S. Embassy in Havana and during official [U.S.] Government visits to Cuba. We will seek to institutionalize a regular human rights dialogue with the Cuban government to advance progress on human rights. We will pursue democracy programming that is transparent and consistent with programming in other similarly situated societies around the world. We will utilize our increased ability to engage regional partners, both bilaterally and through regional bodies, to encourage respect for human rights in Cuba. We will consult with nongovernmental actors such as the Catholic Church and other religious institutions. Finally, we will work with the European Union and likeminded international organizations and countries to encourage the Cuban government to respect universal values.”

6. Cuban Integration into International and Regional Systems

“We will expand dialogue with Cuba in the organizations in which it already holds membership, such as the WTO and the World Customs Organization (WCO), and we will encourage Cuba to move toward rules-based engagement, subject to statutory requirements. We will encourage Cuba to bring its legal framework, particularly its commercial law, in line with international standards. We will encourage Cuba to meet WCO standards for supply chain security. To the extent permitted by and consistent with applicable law, we will facilitate integration into international bodies, including through the use of technical assistance programs. We will pursue cooperation with Cuba on regional and global issues (e.g., combating the Ebola outbreak and the Colombia peace process). Ending the embargo and satisfying other statutory requirements relating to trade will allow the [U.S.] to normalize trade relations with Cuba.”

“Policy Implementation”

1. Roles and Responsibilities

“To facilitate the effective implementation of this directive, departments and agencies will have the following roles and responsibilities, consistent with the relevant legal authorities and limits:”

The National Security Council (NSC) staff will provide ongoing policy coordination and oversight of the implementation of this PPD and the overall Cuba strategy as necessary.”

The Department of State will continue to be responsible for formulation of U.S. policy toward and coordination of relations with Cuba. This includes supporting the operations of Embassy Havana and ensuring it has adequate resources and staffing. Other responsibilities include the issuance of nonimmigrant and immigrant visas, refugee processing, promotion of educational and cultural exchanges, coordination of democracy programs, and political and economic reporting. State will continue to lead the U.S.-Cuba Bilateral Commission and coordinate a number of dialogues, such as the Law Enforcement Dialogue, annual migration talks, and meetings to resolve outstanding claims.”

“State will continue to co-lead efforts with the U.S. Agency for International Development to ensure democracy programming is transparent and consistent with programming in other similarly situated societies. State will coordinate efforts to advance science and technology cooperation with Cuba. State will support telecommunications and internet access growth in Cuba and provide foreign policy guidance to the Departments of Commerce and the Treasury on certain exports, financial transactions, and other license applications.”

The U.S. Mission to the United Nations (USUN), in coordination with State, will oversee multilateral issues involving Cuba at the [U.N.]. USUN will identify areas of possible collaboration with Cuba that could help foster a more collaborative relationship between the [U.S.] and Cuba at the [U.N.[. The USUN will also participate in discussions regarding the annual Cuban embargo resolution at the [U.N.], as our bilateral relationship continues to develop in a positive trajectory.”

The Department of the Treasury is responsible for implementation of the economic embargo restrictions and licensing policies. The Treasury will continue its outreach to help the public, businesses, and financial institutions understand the regulatory changes. The Treasury will continue to review and respond to public questions and feedback on regulations and public guidance that could be further clarified and to discuss with State any novel license requests that the Treasury receives from the public to determine whether such requests are consistent with the regulatory changes and existing law. The Treasury will make use of available channels for bilateral dialogue to understand Cuba’s economic and financial system and encourage reforms and will continue to engage in dialogue with the Cuban government about our regulatory changes.”

The Department of Commerce will continue to support the development of the Cuban private sector, entrepreneurship, commercial law development, and intellectual property rights as well as environmental protection and storm prediction. If statutory restrictions are lifted, Commerce will promote increased trade with Cuba by providing export assistance to U.S. companies. In the meantime, Commerce will continue a robust outreach effort to ensure that U.S. companies understand that U.S. regulatory changes provide new opportunities to obtain licenses or use license exceptions to increase authorized exports to Cuba, including to Cuban state-owned enterprises that provide goods and services to meet the needs of the Cuban people. Additionally, Commerce will continue to engage in dialogue with the Cuban government about our regulatory changes, as well as the need for simplification of the Cuban import process, transparency in Cuban business regulations, and other steps that will lead to full realization of the benefits of our regulatory changes.”

The Department of Defense (DOD) will continue to take steps to expand the defense relationship with Cuba where it will advance U.S. interests, with an initial focus on humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and counternarcotics in the Caribbean. The DOD will support Cuba’s inclusion in the inter-American defense system and regional security and defense conferences, which will give Cuba a stake in hemispheric stability. The DOD will continue to make contingency preparations and support the capacity of the Department of Homeland Security and State to address mass migration and maritime migration issues pursuant to Executive Orders 12807 and 13276 and consistent with other applicable interagency guidance and strategy.”

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will engage, together with the Department of Justice, with the Cuban government to combat terrorism and transnational organized crime. In support of U.S. security and foreign policy objectives, DHS will develop protocols for investigative cooperation with Cuba in coordination with other departments and agencies. The DHS will strengthen the security and efficiency of cross-border supply chains and travel systems in support of people-to-people engagement and authorized U.S. trade with the Cuban private sector. The DHS will safeguard the integrity of the U.S. immigration system, to include the facilitation of lawful immigration and ensure protection of refugees. The Secretary of Homeland Security, the United States Government lead for a maritime migration or mass migration, with support from the Secretaries of State and Defense, will address a maritime migration or mass migration pursuant to Executive Orders 12807 and 13276 and consistent with applicable interagency guidance and strategy.”

The Department of Justice (DOJ) will engage, together with DHS, with the Cuban government to combat terrorism and transnational organized crime. The DOJ will work with Cuba to expand security and law enforcement cooperation, increase information sharing, and share best practices with Cuban counterparts. This work will build upon, and strengthen, current law enforcement cooperation with Cuba under the umbrella of the U.S.-Cuba Law Enforcement Dialogue and its various working groups, which focus on counterterrorism, counternarcotics, cybercrime, human trafficking, and other areas of criminal activity.”

The Small Business Administration (SBA) will continue to engage with the Cuban government, entrepreneurs, small businesses, and cooperative enterprises. The SBA will support exchanges with the Cuban government in areas of mutual interest, particularly on formalization of small businesses and to spur the growth of new enterprises.”

The Office of the United States Trade Representative will provide trade policy coordination in international fora and, consistent with statutory requirements and restrictions, prepare for negotiations to normalize and expand U.S.-Cuba trade.”

The Department of Agriculture (USDA) will work to increase U.S. food and agricultural exports to Cuba by building market opportunities, improving the competitive position of U.S. agriculture, and building Cuba’s food security and agricultural capacity, while protecting plant, animal, and human health. USDA will work with the Government of Cuba to advance cooperation outlined in the U.S.-Cuba agricultural memorandum of understanding signed in March 2016. The USDA will build the U.S.-Cuba trade and development relationship to the extent permitted by and consistent with applicable law.”

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in accordance with the June 2016 memorandum of understanding between HHS and the Ministry of Public Health of the Republic of Cuba, will collaborate with Cuban counterparts in the areas of public health, research, and biomedical sciences, including collaboration to confront the Zika virus, dengue, chikungunya, and other arboviruses. The HHS will promote joint work, such as development of vaccines, treatments, and diagnostics; partner with Cuba to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease outbreaks; collaborate in the field of cancer control, treatment programs, and joint research; and exchange best practices related to access to healthcare.”

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will coordinate with departments and agencies the [U.S.] Government’s response to unplanned environmental occurrences, such as natural or manmade disasters. The USAID will co-lead efforts with State to ensure that democracy programming is transparent and consistent with programming in other similarly situated societies.”

The Department of Transportation (DOT) will continue to develop air and surface transportation links between the [U.S.] and Cuba in support of transportation providers, authorized travelers, and commerce, while providing required regulatory and safety oversight of transportation providers and systems.”

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) will support broader [U.S.] Government efforts to normalize relations with Cuba, with Intelligence Community elements working to find opportunities for engagement on areas of common interest through which we could exchange information on mutual threats with Cuban counterparts.”

The Department of the Interior (DOI) will continue cooperation with Cuba on marine protected areas and continue to engage Cuban counterparts to finalize arrangements on wildlife conservation, terrestrial national protected areas, and seismic records.”

2. Congressional Outreach

Strong support in the Congress for U.S.-Cuba normalization would contribute to the speed and success of the aforementioned goals, particularly with respect to the embargo and adequate embassy staffing. We will seek to build support in the Congress to lift the embargo and other statutory constraints to enable expanded travel and commerce with Cuba and accelerate normalization. We will regularly engage with Members of Congress and staff on challenges and opportunities in Cuba, advocate for [U.S.] Government policies and sufficient staff and resources to implement the aforementioned goals and policy priorities, and encourage and facilitate congressional travel to the region.”

3. Monitoring and Oversight

“The Interagency Policy Committee (IPC), or its future equivalent, will have primary responsibility for coordinating and overseeing the implementation of this policy. The NSC staff will convene regular IPC and Deputies Committee meetings as necessary to monitor implementation and resolve obstacles to progress. The following departments and agencies will designate senior individuals responsible for managing policy implementation in their agency: State, the Treasury, Commerce, DOD (Office of the Secretary of Defense and Joint Staff), DHS, DOJ, USDA, HHS, DOT, USUN, the Office of the United States Trade Representative, USAID, SBA, and DNI.”

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[1] White House, Presidential Policy Directive—United States-Cuba Normalization (Oct. 14, 2016).