back in business
The U.S. embassy in Cuba is restarting its visa and consulate services for the first time following a string of health incidents among diplomatic staff in 2017, reports The Associated Press. The embassy will begin processing immigrant visas with the priority of uniting families across both countries.
The U.S. and Cuba have had a historically tense relationship, given that Cuba is a communist country. However, former President Barack Obama worked to improve those relations, removing the island from the State Sponsor of Terrorism list and reopening its U.S. embassy. But former President Donald Trump then reversed a number of Obama-era policies, reintroducing strict travel restrictions and claiming he was "canceling the previous administration's completely one-sided deal."
In 2017, visa and consular services were closed because of a series of unexplained health attacks on American diplomats in Cuba. The U.S. State Department asserted that the attacks were targeted, but those in Cuba maintained they were "unable to support the hypothesis."
Now, the Biden administration is beginning to re-establish an amicable relationship with Cuba, re-introducing the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program and encouraging the growth of Cuba's private sector. U.S. and Cuban officials had been in talks for months prior to the decision to resume visa services.
"Engaging in these talks underscores our commitment to pursuing constructive discussions with the government of Cuba where appropriate to advance U.S. interests," the U.S. Embassy said in November.
Cuban migrants have been coming to the U.S. in record numbers due to the island's current authoritarian regime, in one instance forcing the closure of a Florida national park. They now are the second-largest group at the southern border following Mexicans.