Monday, July 20, 2015

CUBA OPENS EMBASSY IN THE UNITED STATES



Press Conference
 Bruno Rodriguez & John Kerry

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Ben Franklin Room
Washington, DC
July 20, 2015






SECRETARY KERRY: Good afternoon, everybody. I am very, very pleased this afternoon to welcome to the State Department my colleague, Bruno Rodriguez, the foreign minister of Cuba. And I apologize for our being a little bit late, but we were downstairs – we had a lot to talk about, not just about U.S.-Cuba relations but also about the region – and think we had a very constructive conversation. This is the first visit to the Department of State by a Cuban foreign minister since 1958, and today marks as well the resumption of normal diplomatic ties between our countries and the re-opening of our embassies after a rupture that has lasted 54 years.
So it’s an historic day; a day for removing barriers.
(In Spanish) The United States welcomes this new beginning in its relationship with the people and the Government of Cuba. We are determined to live as good neighbors on the basis of mutual respect, and we want all of our citizens – in the U.S. and in Cuba – to look into the future with hope. Therefore we celebrate this day on July the 20th because today we begin to repair what was damaged and to open what has been closed for many years.
This milestone does not signify an end to differences that still separate our governments, but it does reflect the reality that the Cold War ended long ago, and that the interests of both countries are better served by engagement than by estrangement, and that we have begun a process of full normalization that is sure to take time but will also benefit people in both Cuba and the United States.
This shared resolve to look ahead is what drove our conversation today and what has brought us to this moment. The foreign minister and I touched on a wide range of issues of mutual concern including cooperation on law enforcement, counternarcotics, telecommunications, the internet, environmental issues, human rights, including trafficking in persons. And of course, we also discussed the opening of our embassies.
We want to make sure that those embassies are able to function fully, and I am confident that diplomats from both countries will have the freedom to travel and to converse with citizens from all walks of life. To help lead that effort, I am encouraged that we have a first-rate embassy team in Cuba, led by our charge, Ambassador Jeff De Laurentis, who is one of our finest and most experienced public servants. And I congratulate Foreign Minister Rodriguez on his – this morning’s opening of the Cuban Embassy here in Washington. On August 14th, I look forward to making my first trip as Secretary of State to Cuba and holding a comparable ceremony at our embassy in Havana.
Before closing, I want to thank our colleagues from Switzerland for the vital role that they have played for many years as the protecting power for what has obviously proven to be a much longer time than originally anticipated.
I thank our friends from around the hemisphere who have urged us – in some cases, for decades – to restore our diplomatic ties and who have warmly welcomed our decision to do so.
And I am grateful for the outstanding leadership of Assistant Secretary Roberta Jacobson and for the efforts of the many U.S. and Cuban representatives whose hard work made this day possible.
And I want to acknowledge the commitment of all who care about U.S.-Cuba relations, whether they agree with the decision to normalize or not. Change is rarely easy, especially when earlier positions have been so deeply ingrained and so profoundly felt. But although we can and must learn from the past, nothing is more futile than trying to live in the past. President Obama believes – and so do I – that our citizens benefit far more from policies that aim to shape a better future.
There is, after all, nothing to be lost – and much to be gained – by encouraging travel between our nations, the free flow of information and ideas, the resumption of commerce, and the removal of obstacles that have made it harder for families to visit their loved ones.
Make no mistake, the process of fully normalizing relations between the United States and Cuba will go on. It may be long and complex. But along the way, we are sure to encounter a bump here and there and moments even of frustration. Patience will be required. But that is all the more reason to get started now on this journey, this long overdue journey.
Today, with the opening of our embassies and the visit of the foreign minister, we are taking an historic and long overdue step in the right direction. To keep moving forward, both governments must proceed in a spirit of openness and mutual respect.
I can assure the world, including the people of Cuba, that the United States will do its part.
(In Spanish) I can assure all of you, including the Cuban people, that the United States will do its part.
And now, it is my pleasure to yield the floor to our guest, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.
FOREIGN MINISTER RODRIGUEZ: Thank you, thank you. Good afternoon. Sorry for being late. We have just had a constructive and respectful meeting with Secretary John Kerry. With the Secretary of State, we had an exchange on the issues discussed by Presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama during their historical encounter at the Summit of the Americas in Panama, the current status of the bilateral relations, and the progress achieved since the announcements of December 17th, 2014, including Cuba’s removal from the list of state sponsors of terrorism and the expansion of official exchanges on issues of common interest, and the re-establishment of diplomatic relations and the reopening of embassies.
I conveyed the recognition of our people and government to President Obama for his determination to work for the lifting of the blockade, for urging Congress to eliminate it, and for his willingness to adopt executive measures that modify the implementation of some aspects of this policy. Their scope is still limited, but these are steps taken in the right direction.
Likewise, we have emphasized that, in the meantime, the President of the United States can continue using his executive powers to pay a significant contribution to the dismantling of the blockade, not to pursue changes in Cuba, something that falls under our exclusive sovereignty, but to attend to the interests of U.S. citizens.
I emphasized that the totally lifting of the blockade, the return of the illegally occupied territory of Guantanamo, as well as the full respect for the Cuban sovereignty and the compensation to our people for human and economic damages are crucial to be able to move towards the normalization of relations.
We both ratified our interest in normalizing bilateral relations, knowing that this will be a long and complex process, which will require the willingness of both countries. There are profound differences between Cuba and the United States with regard to our views about the exercise of human rights by all persons all over the world, and also in issues related to international law, which will inevitably persist. But we strongly believe that we can both cooperate and coexist in a civilized way, based on the respect for these differences and the development of a constructive dialogue oriented to the wellbeing of our countries and peoples, and this continent, and the entire world.
I expressed to the Secretary of State that he will be welcome in Cuba on the occasion of the ceremony to reopen the U.S. embassy in Havana.
So, Mr. Secretary, I will be waiting for you. (In Spanish.)
FOREIGN MINISTER RODRIGUEZ: (Via translator) We have just had a constructive and respectful meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry. It was particularly significant to see that the Cuban flag was raised for the first time after 54 years. We would not have been able to make it through these days without the wise conduction of the historical leadership of the revolution, headed by Fidel Castro, and without the resistance and self-determination of the Cuban people and its firm determination to continue walking down the path that was sovereignly chosen.
We have been able to make it through this stage also thanks to the fraternal support received from Latin America and the Caribbean, the overwhelming majority of the countries of the world, many U.S. and Cuban patriotic citizens who reside in these countries, and who persevered for so many years in their efforts so that Cuba and the United States could have better relations.
With the Secretary of State we have an exchange on the issues discussed by Presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama during their historical encounter at the Summit of the Americas in Panama, the current status of the bilateral relations and the progress achieved since the announcements of December the 17th, including Cuba’s removal from the list of state sponsors of terrorism – a place where never Cuba should have been included – and the historic meeting between Presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama on issues of common interest.
I conveyed the recognition of our people and government to President Obama for his determination to work for the lifting of the blockade, for having urged Congress to eliminate it once and for all, and for his willingness to adopt executive measures that modify the implementation of some aspects of this policy. And although their scope is limited, these are steps taken in the right direction.
We both emphasized that the President of the U.S. can continue to use his executive powers to pay a significant contribution to the modification of aspects of the implementation of the blockade with the purpose of eliminating it, not seeking changes in Cuba, which falls under the exclusive sovereignty of the Republic of Cuba and Cubans, but rather to attend to the best interests of the American citizens.
We have insisted that the total lifting of the blockade is essential to move on towards the normalization of relations, of bilateral relations, as well as the return of the illegally occupied territory of Guantanamo, as well as the full respect for the Cuban sovereignty, as well as the compensation to our people for human and economic damages.
We reiterated our invitation to all U.S. citizens to exercise their right to travel to Cuba, as they do to the rest of the world, and to the companies of that country to take advantage on an equal footing of the opportunities offered by Cuba.
The Secretary of State and I ratified our interest in normalizing bilateral relations, knowing that this will be a long and complex process which will require the willingness of both countries. I reiterated to the Secretary of State the Cuban Government’s willingness to move on in the process towards the normalization of relations with the United States on the basis of respect, equality, sovereign equality without prejudice to the independence and sovereignty of Cuba, and without any interference in our internal affairs.
It is true that there are profound differences between the governments of Cuba and the United States with regard to our views about the exercise of human rights by all citizens and in the whole planet, and also when it comes to international law, which will inevitably persist. But we strongly believe that we can both cooperate and coexist in a civilized way, based on the respect for these differences and the development of a constructive dialogue oriented to the wellbeing of our countries and peoples, this continent, and the entire world.
I expressed to the Secretary of State that he will be welcome in Havana on the occasion of the ceremony to reopen the U.S. embassy. So I will be waiting for you, Secretary, at any moment, and I thank you for your hospitality in Washington. Thank you.
MR KIRBY: Today – our first question today comes from Andrea Mitchell, NBC.
QUESTION: Thank you so much. Andrea Mitchell, NBC News. Mr. Foreign Minister, Mr. Secretary.
Mr. Secretary, the foreign minister said today at the opening of the embassy that the continuing hold on Guantanamo Bay, on the naval base, is a nefarious consequence of U.S. attempts to dominate the hemisphere, and that only the lifting of the trade embargo and the return of Guantanamo Bay would lend meaning to today’s historic events. Can you respond to those comments and to what the foreign minister just said, which seemed to indicate that those would be a precondition, and that he did not want any interference by the United States in the domestic policies of Cuba?
And what would you like to see in terms of human rights changes or other policy changes, even absent those changes which are congressionally mandated?
And, Mr. Foreign Minister, welcome to the United States. Welcome to the State Department. For all of us who have watched the relationship for so many years, this is truly an historic event. But you seem to be indicating that there are preconditions, including the lifting of the trade embargo and the return of Guantanamo. And do you see any other changes that Cuba might be willing to afford under the request or influence of the U.S. prior to that – those events taking place? Thank you very much.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I’ll go first. It’s absolutely no surprise, because it’s been a subject of discussion over the course of the time that we have been examining our relationship and working towards today, that there are things that Cuba would like to see happen, there are things the United States would like to see happen. And we’ve both been crystal clear with each other. There’s been no pulling of punches. And I think that’s one of the reasons we’ve built up an ability to be able to get to this moment.
With respect to the embargo, President Obama could not have been more clear. The President has called on Congress to lift the embargo and it is our hope that over the course of the development of the relationship in these next weeks and months and years – and hopefully not too many years – that people will begin to see the benefits that are emerging in both countries as a result of this change today. So we would hope, obviously, that the embargo at the appropriate time will in fact be lifted and that a great deal more foundation can be built for this relationship.
With respect to – and obviously that’s going to take more time; we all understand that. At this time, there is no discussion and no intention on our part at this moment to alter the existing lease treaty or other arrangements with respect to the naval station, but we understand that Cuba has strong feelings about it and I can’t tell you what the future will bring but for the moment that is not part of the discussion on our side.
On the other hand, as I said, both sides have very strong feelings. Our – we have expressed and we will always express – because it’s part of the United States foreign policy; it’s part of our DNA as a country – and that is our view of human rights and our thoughts about it. We have shared good thoughts on that. We’ve had good exchanges. And as you know, part of this arrangement that took place involved an exchange of people as well as the release of some people. And our hope is that as time goes on, we’ll continue to develop that.
What we did talk about today was how to further the relationship most effectively, and perhaps through the creation of a bilateral committee that might work together to continue to put focus on these issues so that we can make the most out of this moment not lose the future with respect to the embargo and other issues.
So we’re going to work at that. I think today is the beginning of a constructive effort and that’s the way we want to keep it.
FOREIGN MINISTER RODRIGUEZ: (Via interpreter) We have completed the stage of exchanges to re-establish diplomatic relations and reopen the embassies. We have managed to achieve a very important progress in the last few years. In the recent times, the U.S. Government has recognized that the blockade against Cuba is a wrong policy, causing isolation and bringing about humanitarian damages and privations or deprivations to our people, and has committed to engage Congress in a debate with the purpose of lifting the blockade. Second, the President of the U.S. has adopted some executive measures which are still limited in scope but which are oriented in the right direction.
I have had an exchange with Secretary Kerry with regards to the purposes for the following period aimed at the normalization of bilateral relations. We have not spoken about conditions but rather about the need to move on through the dialogue on the basis of sovereign equality and mutual respect and create a civilized behavior, despite the profound differences that exist between both governments, to better attend to the interests of our respective peoples.
To me, it is very important the fact that today an embassy was reopened in Washington and that diplomatic instruments could be created ensuring full mutual recognition, which is a practical contribution to the development of bilateral dialogue. I have also said that to Cuba, the normalization of relations presupposes the solution of a series of pending problems. Among them, as I have mentioned, the ceasing of the blockade against Cuba, the return of the territory of Guantanamo, and the full respect for the sovereignty of our country. We have confirmed this morning that there are conditions so that the dialogue could be expanded, and – with the purpose of expanding mutually beneficial cooperation between our – both countries and, of course, taking into account the fact that the situation between the U.S. and Cuba is asymmetric because our policy – or our country has not implemented any discriminatory policy against American citizens or enterprises. Cuba does not implement any unilateral coercive economic measure against the U.S. Cuba does not occupy any piece of U.S. territory. Precisely through the dialogue, we are supposed to create the proper conditions to move on towards the normalization of relations.
I can say that I have been pleased with the exchange with Secretary Kerry and that after the announcement of December the 17th, we have been able to establish in the early mornings of today diplomatic relations. We have been able to reopen the embassy, and now I have the opportunity to welcome Secretary Kerry in Havana for the reopening of the U.S. Embassy there in the next few weeks.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Rodriguez, I would like to know what are the advantages that are now in place after the opening of the embassy, taking into consideration that the blockade is still in place? And what are the advantages that we have now that we have an embassy?
And Secretary of State John Kerry, the Government of Cuba has said several times in the past that the diplomats – the American diplomats in Havana – has violated the Vienna Conventions on the legislations of Cuba in their behavior. Is that going to be like that in the future, or are you going to respect the Vienna Convention, as you said in your documents? Thank you very much.
FOREIGN MINISTER RODRIGUEZ: (Via interpreter) The fact that diplomatic relations have been re-established and that embassies have been reopened in both capitals shows first and foremost the mutual willingness to move on towards the improvement of the relations between our both countries. Second, new instruments are created to further deepen this dialogue under the circumstances that I have described. Third, during the process of our previous conversations, as expressed by the historical letters exchanged between Presidents Raul Castro Ruz and Barack Obama, the basis for the normal functioning of these diplomatic missions would be the purposes and principles enshrined in the UN charter: the principles of international law and the regulations containing the Vienna Conventions on diplomatic and consular relations. Therefore, we have reached agreements in these area, and I can say that Cuba would absolutely respect those provisions. Cuban diplomats will strictly abide by those rules, and we will create in Cuba every necessary condition for the normal functioning of the new U.S. Embassy in our country.
SECRETARY KERRY: (Inaudible) first what Bruno has said. Obviously, part of the negotiations leading up to the opening of the embassies was the matter of coming to agreement with respect to all of the diplomatic functions. And so we spent time – secretary – under secretary – Assistant Secretary Jacobson was negotiating with her counterpart, and the foreign minister and I then met and we signed off on an agreement which is in accord with the Vienna Conventions and meets both of our countries’ understandings of what is needed and what is appropriate at this moment in time. It could be subject to change later in the future, obviously, but for the moment we are satisfied and we are living within the structure of the Vienna Convention.
MR KIRBY: Next question, Pam Dockins, Voice of America.
QUESTION: Good afternoon. Welcome, Foreign Minister Rodriguez. First for you, in your discussions today, did you establish any sort of road map for talks going forward? If so, what are your priorities, and as a result, do you envision a political opening in Cuba on issues such as greater freedom of speech and assembly, and also the legalization of opposition parties?
And Secretary Kerry, if I could switch gears and ask you about Iran nuclear, the UN Security Council vote today on the Iran resolution – critics are saying – of the Iran nuclear deal says this vote will lock them in because it has taken place before Congress has had the opportunity to debate the deal. What is your response to this criticism?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me remind you that I think in the case twice of going to war in previous administrations, the UN Security Council voted before the Congress.
But more importantly, in this particular case with respect to this agreement, we took pains to protect the prerogatives of Congress. We actually got our colleagues in sovereign countries who have no obligation to the Congress to agree to accept 90 days of no implementation of the resolution they voted on today. Now, it’s all well and good, obviously, for the Congress to interact with the executive department and to require us to do things, but frankly, some of these other countries were quite resistant to the idea as sovereign nations that they are subject to the United States Congress. And so we worked out a compromise. And in working out that compromise, we did so in a way that fully protects the prerogative of the United States Congress to review this over the next 60 days. We put a 90-day period in, during which there will be no implementation. So no ability of the Congress has been impinged on. The rights of the Congress to make its evaluation have not changed. But on the other hand, when you’re negotiating with six other countries, it does require, obviously, a measure of sensitivity and multilateral cooperation that has to take into account other nations’ desires at the same time. They were insistent that the vote take place because they were, after all, negotiating under the umbrella of the United Nations. And they thought it was appropriate, when they completed their work, for the United Nations to make its judgment.
I look forward to continuing over the next 60 days to having discussions and testimony and private meetings in whatever forum it is necessary to help convince the Congress that this deal does exactly what it says it does, which is prevents the possibility of a nuclear weapon from falling into the hands of another country while simultaneously opening up the opportunity for the United States to at this moment of time put to test the verification measures and all of those things that Iran has agreed to, rather than choosing today to force the potential of a conflict almost immediately, which is exactly what would happen if the Congress does not accept this agreement.


FOREIGN MINISER RODRIGUEZ: (Via interpreter) My plans are much simpler, which are to welcome Mr. Secretary Kerry in the next few weeks in Havana to continue our talks, to establish the appropriate mechanisms to expand the dialogue in areas related to bilateral cooperation oriented to the common benefit, and to retake our talks about the substantial aspects of the bilateral relations I have mentioned before, which will determine this process towards the normalization of relations.
I should say that he political opening in Cuba happened in the year 1959. The flag that we raised today in the Cuban embassy waited for 54 years to be back to the flagpole put up in this capital. We Cubans feel very happy with way in which we manage our internal affairs. We feel optimistic when it comes to the solution of our difficulties and we are very zealous of our sovereignty, so we will maintain in permanent consultations with our people to change everything that needs to be changed based on the sovereign and exclusive willingness of Cubans.
QUESTION: I have to admit that I’m a little bit lost here with the language, because I’m hearing Secretary Kerry speaking perfect Spanish and Minister Rodriguez speaking perfect English, so I don’t know which language I was – my way to do the original question. But let’s start with Mr. Kerry.
Mr. Secretary, do you think that this new era of relations with Cuba is the recognition that the U.S. policies of isolating countries in Latin America that differ from your political views don’t work? And (b), do you think that the recent trips to Caracas of Mr. Thomas Shannon is the beginning of trying to rebuild the relationship with Venezuela.
(Via interpreter) And my question to Minister Rodriguez: Is it possible to have relations with the U.S. when the U.S. is giving every signal that it is not willing to lift the blockade or the embargo as it is called here, and cannot withdraw from Guantanamo?
And Part B of the question: And for those skeptical people who really see a change of strategy when the U.S. for more than half a century tried to change Cuba from the outside has now implemented a creative way to try to change Cuba from the inside? Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER RODRIGUEZ: (Via interpreter) I can say that the fact that diplomatic relations are being established and that we are reopening both embassies is a show of the mutual willingness to move on towards the normalization of bilateral relations. In hardly 15 minutes on December last, we heard the President of the United States of Obama recognizing that the U.S. policy against Cuba had been wrong, causing damages and hardships to the Cuban people, and causing isolation to the U.S. This is not a minor thing.
Today, we have opened an embassy of a country recognized as a sovereign country, although this is a small and neighboring island. I should say that the re-establishment of diplomatic relations and the opening of embassies is appreciated by my country as a signal of progress towards a civilized relationship, despite the differences, and it would lend some meaning only if the blockade is lifted, if we are able to solve the pending problems for more than one century, and if we are able create a new type of relationship between the U.S. and Cuba different from what has existed all along the history.
So in fact, we feel that the recognition of the need to lift the blockade against Cuba, the fact that during the talks that we have had, including this morning’s talks, we have perceived respect for the Cuba’s independence to the full determination of our people, the fact that we can now talk as I think the Secretary and I have talked, on the basis of absolute equal sovereignty despite differences shows that, as facts have shown, that dialogue is fruitful and that the U.S. and Cuba, by a mandate by the American people and the Cuban people, are in the condition to move on towards a future of relations different from the one accumulated throughout our history, responding precisely to the best interests of our citizens.
There is an international order. International law is recognized as the civilized behavior to be adopted by states. There are universally accepted principles, and these have been the ones who have allowed us to reach this date and the ones that we -- will reorient our behavior in our relations in the future.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I have learned through my public life that there is nothing harder than trying to change deeply-engrained attitudes and beliefs that are based on personal experience in the case of many people. I learned that, obviously, in the experience where I joined with Senator John McCain in a 10-year effort to try to change our relationship with Vietnam and to really finally make peace, to end a war more than 20 years after the war allegedly had ended, but there were still deep battles within our own country over that issue. And over time, with a great deal of effort, we were able to slowly work to show to people there was a better path.
Just a week or two ago, the party secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam was here in Washington visiting with the President, and we are today trading and working and things are changing rapidly in that country – maybe not as rapidly to some people’s desire as they might want, but they are changing.
So it is in many ways with Cuba, where the passions ran deep and run deep to this day in the United States. There are many Cuban Americans who have contributed in so many ways to life in our country, some of whom are still opposed to a change, some of whom believe it is time to change.
When I served in the United States Senate, there were many of us who believed over a period of time that our policy of isolating was simply not working; we were isolating ourselves in many ways. And we felt that after all those years it was time to try something else. President Obama is doing that now. The President said when he announced this shift of policy, if you’re digging a really deep hole and you just keep getting in deeper but you’re not finding what you’re looking for, it’s time to stop digging. And it is clear that we have chosen a new path, a different path. Already, people tell me who have visited Cuba that they feel a sense of excitement, a sense of possibility. And I am convinced that as we work through these issues we are going to find a better path forward that speaks to the needs of both peoples, both countries. So that is why the President has set us on this course. For years and years and years, it was his perception it was the people of Cuba who were paying the highest price, and we weren’t achieving the kind of relationship that we hoped to have.
With respect to Venezuela, Counselor of the State Department Ambassador Tom Shannon has had several conversations with the Venezuelans. We had a very productive conversation prior to the Summit of the Americas in Panama. The United States has said many times we would like to have a normal relationship with Venezuela and have reached out in an effort to try to change the dialogue, change the dynamics. There are differences that we have with President Maduro and his government, and we raise those differences and we talk about them. Just today, Foreign Minister Rodriguez and I talked specifically about Venezuela and our hopes that we can find a better way forward, because all of the region will benefit if no country is being made a scapegoat for problems within a country, and in fact, all countries are working on solving those problems.
That’s our objective. We hope to continue the dialogue with Venezuela. We hope that our diplomatic relations with Cuba can encourage not only greater dialogue with Venezuela but perhaps even efforts to try to help Colombia to end its more than 50-years war and perhaps even other initiatives. We’re not going to be overflowing with expressions of excessive optimism about where we will find this capacity, but we do know that we’re going to look for it. We do know that we think it makes a difference and we’re going to try and work at it. And I think that is the ultimate benefit that comes out of today. With the beginning of diplomatic relations, we are pledging to engage with each other to talk about our differences, to find places of common endeavor, and to try to build a relationship that benefits the people of Cuba, the people of the United States, the people of the region.
Thank you all very much.
MODERATOR: Thank you, everybody. That concludes today’s press conference.
FOREIGN MINISER RODRIGUEZ: Thank you.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Background Briefing on Cuba



Special Briefing
Office of the Spokesperson
State Department Official
Via Teleconference
July 17, 2015


MODERATOR: Thanks so much, [Operator], and thanks to all of you for joining us on the call today. Our speaker today is [State Department Official]. For this call, [State Department Official] can be referred to as a State Department Official. He’s briefing today on background on Cuba, previewing the events for Monday, July 20th.
As you know, on Monday in accordance with President Obama’s announcement on July 1st, the U.S. and Cuba will re-establish diplomatic relations. This call is based on several requests and will deal with questions on the logistics of this re-establishment and Monday’s events. Please note we will not – not – address broader questions on U.S. policy towards Cuba on this call.
And while the Secretary of State will travel to Cuba later this summer to celebrate the re-opening of U.S. Embassy Havana and raise the U.S. flag, details regarding the re-opening ceremony will be provided in the coming weeks. Again, we won’t discuss any high-level travel on this call.
I’d also like to note we have had questions on the flag installation at the State Department. A few notes on this: First, this is a routine installation with no public or media component. Currently, we do not have clarity on the timing but it will be outside of business hours.
Finally, we’d like to keep questions relatively brief today. As you can imagine, our speaker has a lot to do before Monday, so our goal is to wrap this up in about 25 minutes.
Finally, today’s call is on background, so with that, I will turn it over to our State Department official.
STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Great. Thank you [Moderator], and thanks, everybody, for joining us. We do want to answer your questions. It is an incredibly busy time, but we do want to make sure that you do get some of the facts. And so I’ve got a couple of remarks just to explain how we see everything going down on Monday, and then we can open it up for questions.
So as [Moderator] mentioned, this is a direct result of the President’s announcement on July 1st, and we indicated at that time July 20 would be the date that diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba would be re-established. We also announced that this would be the day that we would officially re-open the embassies. So to be clear, legally on July 20th, both interest sections will become embassies.
Now soon-to-be U.S. Embassy Havana will have its – we’ll have more information about that, about when we memorialize that later this summer, but it will officially be an embassy come Monday. And the embassy does plan to put out a short, factual statement to that effect down in Havana.
Up here in Washington, at 10:30, the Cuban Embassy will hold their ceremonial re-opening, and there is very limited attendance by the U.S. Government there. We will have a delegation. We do not have a speaking role. The Cubans are handling their own press, and any questions about their ceremony we would refer to them.
Later at 1 o’clock, Secretary Kerry has invited his counterpart, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, to come to the State Department for an historic meeting. They will meet at 1 o’clock. Afterward at 1:40, they will have a press conference – a joint press conference, and it is there that we’re going to – is that right? So it is there that really there will be sort of the first historic joint press conference between the Secretary of State and the Cuban Foreign Minister.
Really after that event, the minister departs, and that will finish the U.S. involvement for the day. He goes on and does other things that you can ask them about. And then with regard to when our embassy will be ceremonially re-opened in Havana, we’re going to announce those later this summer, or as [Moderator] said, in the coming weeks.
So thank you very much. That’s just sort of our opening comments and pretty much the scope of what we can brief today. But I’m happy to answer any questions about those areas.
OPERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, if you do wish to ask a question, please press * then 1. Our first question is going to come from the line of Matt Spetalnick with Reuters. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes, thanks very much. Kirby said today at his briefing that the talks between Kerry and Rodriguez would be substantive, and he ticked off a number of issues that might be involved. I would like you – on the human rights issue, can you give any guidance on whether Kerry will push for the release of more Cuban political prisoners, and will there be any kind of – what about the Cuban demand for the return of Guantanamo? Is the Secretary willing to discuss that?
STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah, I’m not going to try to talk about the – I don’t really want to talk about the conversation that the two ministers will have. I mean clearly as the spokesperson said, they’re going to talk about bilateral issues. He gave a list. Those will be the items that they go through. And what we’re looking at are issues that we’ve already agreed that we can – that we have an agenda that we can talk about. And so on human rights, we won’t get into specifics, but we’ve had a dialogue with them already and we’ve had a pretty robust conversation with them, and we expect that to be continued through the discussion by the ministers.
OPERATOR: The next question comes from the line of Karen DeYoung with Washington Post. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi. This is about the ceremonies. [Moderator] said that Kerry would go down there to raise the flag at the new U.S. embassy. Does that mean that the flag will not be raised when the embassy opens until Kerry gets there?
STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Right, Karen, that’s the – that is the plan right now. The Secretary will be there to officiate for these very important events of raising the flag and unveiling the signage for the U.S. Embassy in Havana. He does – his presence there is ceremonial. It’s important, it’s historic, but legally the embassy will be functioning on Monday, July 20th. There is not a legal requirement to fly a flag, and we wanted the Secretary to be there to oversee these important events.
OPERATOR: The next question comes from the line of Juan Lopez with CNN Espanol. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you. So starting Monday, what changes, what is different at the now-U.S. Embassy in Havana? Can anyone go? Is it like other embassies in the world where you have to have a previous appointment? What is going to happen with U.S. diplomats? Do – starting Monday, are they free to roam the country as they haven’t been before? Can you be more specific on the logistics please?
STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Right. Yes, on Monday they will – all of the employees of the – the American employees of the interest section will be re-accredited as employees of the embassy. So it is an upgrade in status for the – for all the U.S. employees there. The chief of mission will be upgraded to charge d’affaires, and they will be then entered as a member of the diplomatic corps in Havana, and that will mean that they are invited to diplomatic functions just like any other country. That has not been the case previously. And yes, there are conditions that we have talked about previously, about – when we made the agreement to open the embassies. And there will be some – those conditions will all be active and effective on July 20th and will begin to function under those new conditions. Those new conditions do include greater freedom for U.S. diplomats to travel throughout Cuba.
OPERATOR: The next question comes from the line of Felicia Schwartz with The Wall Street Journal. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi, thanks for doing this. I’ve got two. One is: Do you have any sort of information on when the last Cuban official to visit Washington was and how high-ranking they were? And then two: Is there any sort of timeline about renovations at the soon-to-be embassy? And I know it has to be upgraded. Do you have anything you can tell us about when those are going to begin? Thanks.
STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The Cuban foreign minister has visited New York under the context of the – of UN activities. He has not visited Washington before. And this particular foreign minister has never been to Washington. As far as the – I – actually I don’t have the information as to who was the most senior Cuban to visit before, because there are certain international organizations that are in Washington and may have invited a minister from time to time, so I don’t think that we would keep track of exactly who has been here before.
And with regard to renovations, I really don’t have a – any more information to add other than we don’t have any immediate plans for a major renovation of that facility.
OPERATOR: The next question comes from the line of Margaret Brennan with CBS News. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi, thanks for doing this. When is the last time that a meeting of this level has happened? When is the last foreign minister from Cuba – when did he ever come to the State Department?
STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah, that would be a good question for the historian. It has not happened in decades, but we don’t have the exact date. I’m sorry that we – I regret that we don’t have that. As I said, these two gentlemen have met on various occasions and they have met in Panama and they’ve met in New York, but this is historic in that it has been several decades since a Cuban foreign minister has visited Washington or the State Department.
OPERATOR: Next question comes from the line of Julie Davis with New York Times. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Thanks, hi. Can you say who – which U.S. officials will be attending the opening of the Cuban embassy here on Monday? And then separately, when Secretary Kerry meets with the Cuban Foreign Minister, will discussing the unresolved property claims be on their agenda? And how quickly does the Secretary hope to make progress on that issue?
STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Thank you. The delegation is led by Assistant Secretary Roberta Jacobson, who was the Secretary’s negotiator with the Cubans for – throughout this process. There is a – as I said, it’s a small group. I don’t want – I won’t give all the names here, but they are essentially assistant secretaries and deputy assistant secretaries, both from State Department and other government agencies that have had activities and other negotiations with the Cubans throughout this process. So they are all people that the Cubans are familiar with and reflect an attitude of wanting to work our bilateral agenda in a very robust manner.
I know that the spokesperson mentioned claims as one of the agenda items that they would discuss. It is a priority among many, but we have said this on several occasions that the resolution of these claims is a priority for the State Department and for the U.S. Government. And I don’t have any other information about how that is going to be resolved.
OPERATOR: And our next question comes from the line of Andrea Mitchell with NBC News. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. When Secretary Kerry goes on this trip in presumably August, do you expect that he will do more than the ceremonial flag-raising? Would he also go over to MINREX or do a reciprocal visit? And how long do you expect the Cuban visitors are going to be in Washington?
STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Thank you for the question. We are still working on the details of that trip, which we haven’t yet announced. Obviously, the Cubans approach this with a – with reciprocity in how they’ve organized their meeting here, and so I’ll just leave it at that, that most things that we do with the Cuban Government are reciprocal in nature. And so July 20 is an important ceremonial activity for us as we look to future travel by the Secretary.
On the – was there another question there? Did I miss one? Did I miss another part of that question?
OPERATOR: One moment, I’ll open that line up.
QUESTION: Bruno’s schedule.
STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: What? Oh, Bruno’s schedule. Sorry, I’ve got it now. The – from what we know of the foreign minister’s schedule, he will arrive on Sunday and then he will depart on Tuesday early. So it – most of his schedule revolves around the ceremony at the Cuban embassy.
OPERATOR: And our next question comes from the line of Carrie Kahn with NPR. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi, thank you. Quickly, will the charge d’affaires, Jeffrey DeLaurentis, be in Havana, and will he do anything in Havana on Monday? Did you get the new employees that you asked for and will they be there start this – starting next week? And you said they get an upgrade of employees that are at the Interests Section. Do they also get a pay upgrade?
STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The – actually, Jeff DeLaurentis will be – and I should have mentioned that earlier – he will be in the delegation that is here in Washington, and that’s a fairly standard practice and especially for a historic meeting that our representative in the embassy would come back for that meeting. So he will be here in Washington. And so our deputy chief of mission in Havana will actually on that day be in charge of the post. And again, there is no other activity other than we’re going to have a statement put out by the embassy announcing that they have indeed elevated status to an embassy that morning.
There also will be a technical exchange of notes because the Government of Switzerland has been providing us protecting power for many years, and that will now be – that agreement between the U.S. and Switzerland, and another agreement between Cuba and Switzerland, will be terminated as a result of the upgrade.
As for the employees, there may be some confusion in that the discussion of personnel and staffing that we had with the Cubans referred specifically to American employees, and that’s a personnel issue that we’ll work out in the months to come. So on that day, we would not get new employees. In fact, the employees at the Cuban Interests Section will be the same employees and they – as I understand it, they’re excited about becoming (inaudible) of the U.S. embassy.
OPERATOR: Next question comes from the line of Serena Marshall with ABC News. Please go ahead. Ms. Marshall, possibly your mute button is on.
QUESTION: Sorry about that, my mute button was on. I would just like to confirm about the flag raising in Havana, that not only will there not be a ceremonial flag raising, there will not be any American flag outside of the U.S. Interests Section, soon-to-be embassy, on Monday. And secondly, on the State Department raising the flag outside, if we do want to cover that as a historic moment to have the Cuban flag outside of the State Department, will you give any more guidance on what time that will occur or if there will be able to be any video of that?
STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I’ll do the first question and ask [Moderator] about the second. Yeah, to confirm, there – so there will be no flag flying at the U.S. embassy in Havana until the Secretary of State comes down to officiate that ceremony. It is not a legal requirement that they fly the flag, and we are going to function as an embassy. They will do everything just like an embassy, but they will not have the additional feature of flying a flag. With regard to the C Street, it’s not a flag outside the State Department. It’s inside the State Department in our lobby, and [Moderator] was going to – I think [Moderator] addressed that at the top. I don’t know if you want to jump in here, [Moderator].
MODERATOR: No, you are actually great on that. It is in the C Street lobby. That will be up outside of business hours, but that will be one of all of the flags that are displayed in the C Street lobby of the nations with whom we maintain diplomatic relations.
OPERATOR: And it looks like we have time for one more question. That comes from the line of Pam Dockins with Voice of America. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you for doing this. First – two questions, actually. First of all, considering the U.S. trade embargo remains in place and travel to Cuba is restricted under the 12 categories, what tangible changes will result from the opening of the embassies on Monday for the average American who’s interested in Cuba, and also for the average Cuban who’s interested in America? What will be the difference for them, or will the openings be more symbolic?
Oh, and my second question – just because I picked up about a minute late, could you clarify the attribution? Is it senior Administration official or senior State Department official?
STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Right. This is a symbolic step, but it is a very important step in the next stage of our relations with Cuba. The President has been very clear there are many other changes that need to take place, and he has called on Congress to end the embargo. As far as tangible changes that people will see, I will just say that as a result of the President’s decision, more Americans are able to travel to Cuba and they will be supported by a U.S. embassy rather than a U.S. interests section, and that Cubans, as part of the negotiations, will see more accessibility to our facility down there. They will not have the – to – they will not face as many security officials as before due to the conditions that the embassy will operate under, and they will be able to more easily access American officials should they want to talk to them.
With regard to the attribution, I’ll leave that for [Moderator].
MODERATOR: Thanks so much. And just as a reminder, it is a State Department official, and the attribution – this call is on background, State Department official.
Finally, I want to thank all of you for joining us. I’m sorry that the call was so brief. We will push out products on Monday, including transcripts; photos will be posted to the State Department properties. It’s a significant day. I’d like to thank our briefer for joining us, as well as all of you. Have a good weekend.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

“The 2014 Humanitarian Crisis at Our Border: A Review of the Government's Response to Unaccompanied Minors One Year Later”

Statement of the 
American Immigration Lawyers Association

Submitted to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Hearing: 


July 7, 2015
Contact:
Gregory Chen, 
Director of Advocacy 1331 G Street, NW gchen@aila.org Washington, DC 20005

Phone: 202/507-7615 Fax: 202/783-7853


As the national bar association of more than 14,000 immigration lawyers and law professors, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) respectfully submits this statement for the record.
During the summer of 2014, the United States experienced a peak in the number of unaccompanied children and families from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras apprehended at our southwestern borders. Today, the life threatening dangers these refugees face in these Northern Triangle countries of Central America have not diminished. Recent United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) statistics show a 1,185 percent increase since 2008 in asylum applications by Central Americans to countries in regions other than the U.S.
Despite initially calling the situation "an urgent humanitarian crisis" in early June 2014, the Obama Administration’s response to the regional refugee situation quickly turned toward dramatic enforcement measures such as the massive expansion of family detention. The Administration also began exploring ways to circumvent U.S. protection standards and to expedite the processing and removal of unaccompanied alien children (UACs).1 Since that summer, several legislative proposals that would roll back critical legal protections for unaccompanied alien children – such as the misnamed “Protection of Children Act” (H.R. 5143) introduced in 2015 by Representative John Carter (TX-31) – have been introduced but have not passed.
Existing U.S. legal standards protecting unaccompanied children, principally embodied in the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) and the Flores Settlement Agreement, are among the most carefully developed in the world. Compromising these protections would harm vulnerable child victims of violence. It would result in children who are eligible for, and desperately need, humanitarian protection in the United States being sent back to the violence they escaped. Our nation should not scale back its protections for vulnerable
1 June 30, 2014 Letter from President Obama to Congress, available at www.aila.org/uac. AILA Doc. No. 15070700. (Posted 07/06/15)
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children. The situation in the Northern Triangle presents an opportunity for the United States to demonstrate its leadership and affirm its commitment to humanitarian and child protection.
That historical commitment is being shaken to its core by the Obama Administration’s family detention policies. The government’s own data show that 88 percent of families are demonstrating that they are likely to succeed on their asylum claims based on the extreme violence and persecution they have personally endured. The detention of traumatized children and mothers profoundly impacts their emotional and physical well-being, with enduring consequences. Family detention is not consistent with our nation’s most fundamental values and must end. There is no justification for it, and there is no excuse.
AILA’s Recommendations on Legal Standards and Protections for Unaccompanied Children
 Neither Congress nor the administration should extend the “contiguous country” process currently used for Mexican children to children from non-contiguous countries. Applying the contiguous country process, or elements of it, to children from other countries would compromise the important protections the TVPRA provides to ensure physical safety and proper screening for humanitarian protection.
 As specified in statute, every unaccompanied child should have the opportunity to consult with legal counsel and appear before an immigration judge in removal proceedings before he or she is deported. Summary removal procedures, such as expedited removal or pre-hearing voluntary departure, should never be used for children.
 The Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) should be funded to hire enough judges and staff so it can provide prompt hearings for unaccompanied children without compromising standards of due process and fairness. With about 350,000 cases in the current EOIR backlog, scheduling delays are a leading reason cases cannot move forward promptly. Under no circumstances should pressure be placed on immigration judges to handle cases at a faster rate by denying legitimate requests for continuances.
 No child should face deportation alone. But unfortunately, most still do. The government should provide counsel for children in removal proceedings when they cannot afford a private attorney. The lack of counsel compounds the vulnerability of children as they move through our nation’s complicated removal system. Even children who have survived trauma or persecution or live in fear of return are often left to navigate the laws on their own and present their claims without any legal assistance. AILA Doc. No. 15070700. (Posted 07/06/15)
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 Know-your-rights and legal screenings should be sufficiently funded to ensure that every child and adult receives the benefits of these programs. Although not a substitute for legal representation, these programs are the only opportunity for most individuals – including children – to obtain information about their rights and responsibilities under the law, information vital for them to be able to make informed decisions about how to proceed. Research shows that EOIR’s Legal Orientation Program (LOP) participants move through the immigration court process an average of 12 days faster than detainees who do not have access to LOP, resulting in significant savings for both the immigration court and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) immigration detention system.
 The Asylum Division of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) should be funded to hire more asylum officers to promptly adjudicate asylum applications. Asylum officers have better training than CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers in reviewing the petitions of vulnerable individuals. Currently, the Asylum Division has a substantial backlog in asylum applications, and increasing its capacity would improve overall efficiency in the process.
 Care, screening and protection for Mexican children should be brought on par with all other unaccompanied children. Mexican children are treated differently under the TVPRA and face nearly automatic repatriation, with limited screening for relief, without the advice of counsel. Their deportation decisions are not made by immigration judges, but by CBP officers and agents. All unaccompanied children should be screened by a professional with training in child welfare, trauma, counseling, and international humanitarian and immigration law, and should appear in removal proceedings before an immigration judge.
 Although the administration is facing enormous operational pressures, it should ensure that pressure is not placed on these vulnerable children to make quick decisions that may jeopardize their well-being. Many of the unaccompanied children who come to the border have been trafficked, persecuted in their home countries, or subjected to domestic violence, abuse, and neglect. These traumatized children may require medical care and even counseling before they can share intimate details of their suffering and appear before a judge.
 Unaccompanied children should be cared for and housed in the least restrictive environment, as mandated by law. They should be separated from non-relative adults while in the government's physical custody. An unaccompanied child should not be held in secure facilities unless a determination is made that he or she poses a danger to himself, herself or others. AILA Doc. No. 15070700. (Posted 07/06/15)
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Legislative Proposals to Downgrade Due Process for Child Victims
Since last summer, several bills have been introduced that would subject all unaccompanied children to the same expedited screening that is currently applied to those unaccompanied children who come from “contiguous countries” (Mexico/Canada). A fundamental flaw in this mechanism is the reliance on Border Patrol officials to identify trafficking, persecution and other refugee claims. UNHCR has concluded that this screening mechanism--as is currently applied to Mexican children--is ineffective and often results in the return of children to situations of trafficking and persecution.
Currently, the TVPRA requires that unaccompanied children from non-contiguous countries be transferred out of the custody of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and into the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) within 72 hours of identification. ORR screens the children for medical and other immediate needs as well as for vulnerability factors such as trafficking or fear of persecution.
By contrast, under current law Mexican children face nearly automatic repatriation, with limited screening for relief that takes place within 48 hours (but typically 12 hours) of apprehension, and without the advice of counsel. Their deportation decisions are not made by immigration judges, but by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and agents. No matter their country of origin, traumatized children cannot be expected to express to an armed Border Patrol agent the details of their trafficking experiences. For any unaccompanied child, CBP facilities are not a suitable environment for interviewing minors, nor are CBP officers and agents the best officials to conduct interviews about sensitive topics such as persecution, trafficking, and other possible trauma.
Research demonstrates that Border Patrol screenings fail to protect even adults who have legitimate fears of returning home. In 2005, the bipartisan United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) conducted an extensive study of Border Patrol’s use of expedited removal and found serious flaws in the protections afforded to legitimate asylum seekers through the expedited removal process.2 In particular, it found that Border Patrol was not following proper procedures in screening and referring individuals for credible fear interviews. In 2014, AILA and other organizations submitted a complaint to the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) citing many case examples of individuals in whose cases CBP never asked about fear of return in the first place or ignored statements of fear.3 In response, CRCL has opened an investigation.
2 United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, Report on Asylum Seekers in Expedited Removal (February 8, 2005), available at http://www.uscirf.gov/reports-briefs/special-reports/report-asylum-seekers-in-expedited-removal.
3 National Immigrant Justice Center et al., Complaint re: inadequate U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) screening practices block individuals fleeing persecution from access to the asylum process, available at http://www.aila.org/infonet/aila-nijc-and-others-file-crcl-complaint. AILA Doc. No. 15070700. (Posted 07/06/15)
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New findings published in May 2015 by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) found that CBP uses Operation Streamline to refer people who are known to have a fear of persecution and are seeking asylum to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for criminal prosecution for illegal entry and reentry—a practice that is in gross violation of asylum law.4
Instead of lowering standards for children from noncontiguous countries, AILA recommends that Congress raise the standards for screening and protection for all unaccompanied children.
 All unaccompanied children should be screened by a professional with training in child welfare, trauma, counseling, and international humanitarian and immigration law.
 Protocols for screening unaccompanied children could be improved upon by adopting best practices from the criminal justice and child welfare fields which have developed comprehensive protocols for rape, sexual assault and child abuse cases. These criminal justice and child abuse practices are designed to ensure that complainant victims are given adequate time to report such incidents given the trauma victims suffer and the need for time to recover emotionally and physically. Interviews should be done in a safe setting and manner that minimizes the likelihood of re-traumatizing the victim.
 All children should be given the opportunity to tell their story in an environment where the full and fair adjudication of their protection claims can take place before a neutral, trained adjudicator.
 All children should be provided counsel in removal proceedings when they cannot afford a private attorney or obtain pro bono counsel. Children who have survived trauma or persecution or live in fear of return should not be left to navigate the laws on their own. The lack of counsel compounds the vulnerability of children as they move through our nation’s complicated removal system.
Expedited Court Hearings and In Absentia Removals of UACs
In the summer of 2014, the Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review, which has jurisdiction over the immigration courts and immigration judges, announced that it would begin to prioritize hearings for recent border crossers, including unaccompanied children.5 Immigration courts were directed to ensure that recently-arrived children have their first master
4 DHS OIG, Streamline: Measuring Its Effect on Illegal Border Crossing (May 15, 2015), available at http://www.aila.org/infonet/dhs-oig-report-cbp-effect-illegal-border-crossing.
5 Department of Justice, Department of Justice Actions to Address the Influx of Migrants Crossing the
Southwest Border in the United States (undated), available at http://www.aila.org/infonet/eoir-fact-sheet-priorities-addressing-border-surge AILA Doc. No. 15070700. (Posted 07/06/15)
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calendar hearing date within 21 days of the date that their notice to appear (NTA) is filed with the immigration court.6 Many immigration courts, including those with the highest volumes of cases, have responded to these directives by establishing specialized, fast-track dockets for handling children’s cases.
The expedited processing of unaccompanied children’s legal cases has had serious consequences. Legal service providers have observed significant numbers of children who have either received defective notice of their removal proceedings and upcoming hearing dates, or who have received no notice at all. As a result, immigration judges have issued numerous removal orders against children without their presence or knowledge (“in absentia”).
In absentia orders should not be issued in children’s cases when they have not received adequate notice of their immigration proceedings. Counsel should be provided to all children and families in removal proceedings; mechanisms to ensure adequate notice in each case should be put in place; faulty in absentia orders that have been issued against children should be reopened; and Congress should fully fund the immigration court system so that hearings for all respondents can be held in a timely manner.
While some have claimed that upwards of 90 percent of these children have not shown up for their hearings, this is far from accurate. The fact is that the majority of children continue to show up for court proceedings–almost 80 percent.7 Historically, that number jumps substantially for children who have legal counsel—92.5 percent in cases completed from fiscal year 2005 through June 2014.8
Conclusion
The current legal standards protecting unaccompanied children are among the most carefully developed in the world. Our nation should not scale back its protections for vulnerable children. The situation in the Northern Triangle presents an opportunity for the United States to demonstrate its leadership and affirm its commitment to humanitarian and child protection.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter. If you have questions or concerns, feel free to contact Gregory Chen, AILA’s Director of Advocacy, gchen@aila.org, 202/507-7615.
6 See David Rogers, Migrants’ right to counsel argued, Politico (Sept. 3, 2014) (quoting counsel for the government
at oral argument in J.E.F.M. v. Holder as stating existence of 21-day policy).
7 EOIR data from July 18, 2014 through May 26, 2015, obtained by the American Immigration Council, indicates that 78.8 percent of unaccompanied children, or 20,324 children out of 25,777, have likely appeared for their first hearing. This number is calculated by subtracting the number of in absentia orders issued (5,453) from the total number of master calendar hearings scheduled for unaccompanied children, where the date has passed (25,777).
8 See http://immigrationpolicy.org/just-facts/taking-attendance-new-data-finds-majority-children-appear-immigration-court. AILA Doc. No. 15070700. (Posted 07/06/15)

Monday, July 6, 2015

Designation of the San Antonio Missions, Texas as UNESCO World Heritage Site


Department of State
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
July 6, 2015


The Department of State welcomes yesterday’s decision by UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee to inscribe the San Antonio Missions in Texas, a series of four missions making up a U.S. National Historical Park, plus the Alamo, as a UNESCO World Heritage site.  This prestigious designation is a global recognition of the site’s outstanding universal value.  The San Antonio Missions become the 23rd U.S. site on the World Heritage List, which includes the Grand Canyon and the Statue of Liberty.
The San Antonio Missions, consisting of Mission Concepción, Mission San José, Mission San Juan, Mission Espada and Mission San Antonio de Valero (The Alamo), are the largest collection of Spanish colonial architecture in North America and embody nearly 300 years of history and culture.  The missions shaped the San Antonio landscape with their acequias, farmfields, ranchlands, and compounds. They are a testament to the confluence of Indigenous and Spanish colonial peoples from around the empire of New Spain who were brought together to share technologies, art, and cultures.  The missions continued to play an important role in early Mexican history and in the struggle for Texas independence, contributions that can still be seen in the modern layout of the streets and neighborhoods of San Antonio.
The United States appreciates the work of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee as it seeks to protect and preserve historical, cultural or natural sites of global significance.
For more information on the San Antonio Missions, visit: http://www.nps.gov/saan/index.htmwww.visitsanantonio.com, and www.missionsofsanantonio.org, and follow #MissionsofSanAntonio and #WorldHeritageMissionsSA on Twitter.  More information about the U.S. and World Heritage is available at: www.nps.gov/oia/topics/worldheritage/worldheritage.htm

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Re-Establishment of Diplomatic Relations With Cuba



Re-opennig of embassies scheduled for July 20, 2015

Department of State
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
July 6, 2015


President Obama announced on July 1, 2015, the historic decision to re-establish diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States of America, effective July 20. The U.S. Department of State also notified Congress of its intent to convert the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, Cuba to U.S. Embassy Havana, effective on the same date. These are important steps in implementing the new direction in U.S.-Cuba relations announced by President Obama on December 17, 2014.
On July 1, the U.S. and Cuban Interests Sections exchanged presidential letters declaring mutual intent to re-establish diplomatic relations and re-open embassies on July 20, 2015. President Obama affirmed that the two governments had agreed to develop “respectful and cooperative” relations based on international principles, including the promotion and encouragement of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.
The U.S. Embassy will continue to perform the existing functions of the U.S. Interests Section, including consular services, operation of a political and economic section, implementation of a public diplomacy program, and will continue to promote respect for human rights. The U.S. Embassy will allow the United States to more effectively promote our interests and values and increase engagement with the Cuban people.
The U.S. Embassy in Havana will operate like other embassies in restrictive societies around the world, and will operate in sync with our values and the President’s policy. Diplomats will be able to meet and exchange opinions with both government and nongovernment entities. Chief of Mission Jeffrey DeLaurentis will be the senior-most official in the new embassy and will serve as Charge d’Affaires ad interim.
Normalizing relations is a long, complex process that will require continued interaction and dialogue between our two governments, based on mutual respect. We will have areas of cooperation with the Cubans, and we will continue to have differences. Where we have differences, deeper engagement via diplomatic relations will allow us to articulate those differences clearly, directly, and when appropriate, publicly. Throughout our diplomatic engagement, the United States will remain focused on empowering the Cuban people and supporting the emergence of a democratic, prosperous, and stable Cuba.
The embargo on Cuba is still in place and legislative action is required to lift it. Additionally, rules for travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens remain in effect. The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control will continue to administer the regulations that provide general licenses for the 12 categories of authorized travel to Cuba.
The Administration has no plans to alter current migration policy, including the Cuban Adjustment Act. The United States continues to support safe, legal and orderly migration from Cuba to the United States and the full implementation of the existing migration accords with Cuba.

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External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.

MIGRA NEWS: USCIS Launches Citizenship Public Awareness Initiative





National Effort Highlights Agency’s 
Free Citizenship Preparation Tools


WASHINGTON—U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services released a series of promotional materials today as part of theCitizenship Public Education and Awareness Initiative. This media campaign builds on a similar effort from 2011 and is being launched under the umbrella of the Task Force on New Americans and President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.
This effort is intended to raise awareness about the rights, responsibilities and importance of U.S. citizenship and provide information on the naturalization process and USCIS educational resources. The promotional campaign guides lawful permanent residents towards the USCIS Citizenship Resource Center for official, accurate and reliable information on citizenship and naturalization topics.
“USCIS is proud to expand its efforts to assist those eligible for citizenship – the highest privilege of our nation's immigration system – to take the necessary steps to complete their journey,” said USCIS Director León Rodríguez. “Through this initiative, USCIS continues to emphasize the importance of citizenship to both individuals and the nation while providing free preparation tools for aspiring citizens.”
According to the most recent analysis by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics, an estimated 8.8 million lawful permanent residents are eligible to apply for citizenship, and the median time spent as a lawful permanent resident before becoming a United States citizen is seven years. Green card holders who meet all eligibility requirements may apply for citizenship after five years, or three years if they are married to a U.S. citizen. (See uscis.gov/us-citizenship/citizenship-through-naturalization .)
The media campaign announced today includes print advertisements in English, Spanish, Chinese and Vietnamese; digital advertisements in English, Spanish, Chinese and Vietnamese; radio public service announcements in Spanish and Chinese; and video public service announcements in English and Spanish. Online digital advertisements will run from July 1-Aug. 15. A second phase will begin in September, and will include additional print and digital media spots.
 This campaign aims to provide those seeking citizenship with information on the naturalization process and USCIS educational resources. It is part of a larger effort to demystify the process and provide lawful permanent residents with information to protect themselves against the unauthorized practice of immigration law.
 Immigrant-serving organizations can support the initiative by:
  • Sharing digital and print campaign materials.
  • Placing a USCIS banner or widget on the organization's website.
  • Registering for a free copy of the Civics and Citizenship Toolkit and using the contents in citizenship or English language programs.
  • Placing the media campaign’s print advertisement posters in office waiting areas, classrooms, community centers and other visible areas.
  • Requesting to download and use the available PSAs, free of charge, over the one-year life of the campaign.
  • Adding the organization’s English language and/or citizenship education programs to America’s Literacy Directory at www.literacydirectory.org.  
See the Video PSAs Web page to view the video public service announcements. Digital, print, radio and video messages can be downloaded free of charge. Immigrant-serving organizations and members of the media interested in donating media space should send an email to norine.w.han@uscis.dhs.gov.  

Análisis a Fondo: La guerra sucia continuará; le conviene a Washington

Foto proporcionada por el autor. No lo dejaran gobernar, le dije a Olivia en el 2019   Ahora lo acusan de ser financiado por los narcos ...