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U.S., Cuba set to talk about immigration issues

From Charley Keyes, CNN Senior Producer
  • Talks slated for Friday
  • Discussion will focus on welfare of U.S. contractor
  • Alan Gross has been detain in Cuba since December

Washington (CNN) -- U.S. and Cuban officials are set to sit down together in Washington on Friday to discuss immigration and other issues, according to a State Department spokesman.

"The U.S. views the migration talks as an important opportunity for both the United States and Cuban governments to discuss policies and procedures that promote safe, legal, and orderly migration," State Department spokesman Michael Tran told CNN Sunday.

Relations between Washington and Havana have deteriorated in recent months, in part because of Cuba's detention of American contractor Alan Gross, who has been held in Cuban prison since December. The two countries have not formally held immigration talks since February and next week provides another chance for the U.S. to call for his release.

"The United States is focused on the welfare of Alan Gross and we believe he should be released and permitted to return to his family," Tran said. "This is a matter we have raised on multiple occasions with the Cuban government and that we will continue to raise with them."

In recent weeks, the United States did have discussions with Cuba about the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster. And earlier, the two countries talked about earthquake assistance to Haiti.

"We intend to review trends in illegal Cuban migration to the United States, and to improve operational relations with Cuba on migration issues," Tran said about the agenda for Friday. "Other matters of mutual concern may arise in our meetings, but the main purpose is to discuss migration issues."