Cuban influx sparks US row

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The Independent Online
SAN JUAN (AP) - A new wave of Cuban boat people is being welcomed into the United States, heightening criticism of US immigration policy by groups who oppose the return of thousands of fleeing Haitians. Immigration specialists say the policy is biased in favor of Cubans, and black leaders said it may increase racial tensions in southern Florida, where most of the Cubans land.

Since 1 August, 646 Cubans have been picked up in the Florida Straits - 161 this month alone, a US Coast Guard official said yesterday. The Haitians have been sent back without a hearing to determine if they were fleeing political repression, but most Cubans can apply for residency status and qualify for low-interest government loans. 'Cubans are exceptional in our laws, above any nationality,' said a spokesman for the US Immigration Service.