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U.S. and Cuba to sit down to talk migration

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The U.S. and Cuba will sit down for the first time in nearly four years to discuss migration between the two countries. The talks, scheduled for tomorrow in Washington, come as the number of Cuban migrants trying to enter the U.S. at the Mexican border and by sea into Florida has skyrocketed. NPR's Carrie Kahn reports.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Migration talks used to occur between the U.S. and Cuba twice a year. President Trump ended that in 2018 and increased economic sanctions against the Caribbean island. Speaking at a migration conference in Panama today, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas says the U.S. is open to resuming those meetings.

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ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS: And that is a reflection of our commitment to legal, orderly and humane pathways so individuals, including Cubans, do not take, for example, to the seas, which is an extraordinarily perilous journey.

KAHN: U.S. officials say they picked up more than 1,200 Cubans trying to come by boat since last October and 80,000 trying to cross by land. That's more than double the number of Cubans U.S. officials encountered at the Mexico border in all of the previous fiscal year. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who led the delegation to Panama, says countries must work together to tackle the record levels of people on the move in the hemisphere. They say more money must be invested back in migrants' homes so they don't have to leave in the first place. Cuba's deputy foreign minister, Josefina Vidal, told CNN in Havana yesterday that the U.S. may have that policy of investment and engagement with other countries, but not with Cuba. U.S. policies are making the situation worse, she says.

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JOSEFINA VIDAL: Because in the case of Cuba, it's not just a consequence of the pandemic. It is the consequences of the reinforcement of the policy of maximum pressure, economic pressure of the U.S. towards Cuba.

KAHN: President Biden has stuck with Trump's economic sanctions. Human rights activists say a recent crackdown by Cuban authorities on free speech is also contributing to the exodus. Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Mexico City. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.