Coast Guard Steps up Patrols off Florida as US, Cuba Spar Over Migration Policy

Homeland Security says additional Coast Guard cutters have been deployed to the Florida Straits to halt Cuban and Haitian migrants from reaching the United States by boat.

The announcement came as a U.S. delegation began two days of talks with Cuban officials in Havana. It's the highest-level U.S. delegation to the island in more than decades.

Cuba urged the U.S. to end immigration privileges that grant virtually automatic legal residency to any Cuban who touches U.S. soil. Its government blames the Cold War policy for luring tens of thousands of Cubans a year to make perilous journeys by sea and land to try to reach the United States.

The American officials rebuffed the demands, instead pressing Cuba to take back tens of thousands of its nationals whom U.S. authorities want to deport because they have been convicted of crimes. An official present in the meeting says no progress was made on that issue.

U.S. officials reported a spike in the number of rafters attempting to reach Florida after the Dec. 17 announcement that the countries would move to normalize ties. Those numbers appear to have slowed in recent days.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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