WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. has offered to resume immigration talks with the government of Cuba, a State Department official said Friday.
"We intend to use the renewal of talks to reaffirm both sides' commitment to safe, legal and orderly migration, to review recent trends in illegal Cuban migration to the United States, and to improve operational relations with Cuba on migration issues," State Department spokeswoman Heide Bronke-Fulton told CNN.
The Bush Administration suspended the immigration talks with the Cuban dictatorship in January 2004.
A resumption of talks would follow President Obama's easing of family travel and financial restrictions between the U.S. and the island nation.
CNN reported last month that a high-ranking State Department official had met recently with Cuba's top diplomat in the United States. The meeting between Assistant Secretary of State Tom Shannon and Jorge Bolanos, head of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, was part of informal talks on how the United States and Cuba can better coordinate on bilateral issues, including migration and drug trafficking, officials said.
Reaction to a resumption of immigration talks from three Republican members of Congress, all from heavily populated Cuban districts in Florida, was less than enthusiastic.
Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart issued a joint statement saying:
"The Cuban regime continues to violate the [Migratory] Accord by denying hundreds of exit permits annually to Cuban nationals who have received visas to enter the United States. The Obama administration should first insist that the Castro dictatorship complies with the accord before renewing 'talks.' Regrettably, this constitutes another unilateral concession by the Obama administration to the dictatorship."
Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey also voiced his displeasure.
"The administration is missing opportunities to make real change in Cuba by not conditioning this type of opportunity on the regime acting to stop denying its citizens exit visas and charging exorbitant amounts of those whom they chose to let exit," Menendez said.
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