The Biden administration announced Wednesday that starting early next year, the US Embassy in Havana, Cuba, will resume full immigrant visa processing for the first time since 2017, as border officials contend with an increasing number of Cubans at the US southern border.
The move is part of a concerted effort to expand legal pathways to the United States, which was laid out in the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection during the Summit of the Americas in June.
US Citizenship and Immigration Services is also increasing the number of personnel in Havana to process cases and conduct interviews as part of the Cuban Reunification Parole Program. The program, which resumed in August, allows certain US eligible citizens and lawful permanent residents to apply for parole for their family Cuba so they can reunite in the US.
“These efforts are a key step to meet the U.S. commitment under the U.S.-Cuba Migration Accords to ensure that total legal migration to the United States from Cuba will be a minimum of 20,000 Cubans each year, not including immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. The State Department continues to evaluate further expanding visa services in Havana as conditions permit,” the administration said in a release Wednesday.
Cubans have been journeying to the US-Mexico border, as well as southern Florida, in increasing numbers over the last year. In August, US Customs and Border Protection encountered just over 19,000 Cuban migrants along the US-Mexico border, up from 4,496 last August, according to the latest available data.
Frosty relations with countries such as Cuba and Venezuela has kept the US from removing people, posing a greater challenge to the administration.
“Failing communist regimes in Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba are driving a new wave of migration across the Western Hemisphere, including the recent increase in encounters at the southwest U.S. border,” CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus said in a statement earlier this week.