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In Cuba US seeks solution to migrant crisis but will not change law

Cuban migration to the United States has experienced a number of waves since Fidel Castro's rebels overthrew a pro-American government in 1959 and later aligned Cuba with the Soviet Union.

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Cuban President- Raul Castro play

Cuban President- Raul Castro

(occupydemocrats)

The United States has encouraged Central American governments to solve a humanitarian crisis in which thousands of Cubans are stranded in Costa Rica on their journey to the U.S. border, the top U.S. diplomat in Havana said on Monday.

But the diplomat, Jeffrey DeLaurentis, said Washington has no plans to intervene or change its immigration policies, which grant Cubans special treatment that welcomes them into the United States and offers residency with relative ease.

Likewise, the United States will continue a program begun in 2006 that entices Cuban doctors and nurses on overseas missions to defect even as it works to normalize relations with the Communist-run island, said DeLaurentis, the charge d'affaires.

"The bottom line is that we don't have at this time plans to change any aspect of our migration policy," DeLaurentis told Reuters in an interview.

A Cold War-era law known as the Cuban Adjustment Act and a 1995 policy known as "wet foot/dry foot" allow Cubans who reach U.S. soil to enter without a visa. Those picked up at sea are returned to Cuba.

Concerned that the practice might change as a result of improved U.S.-Cuban relations, thousands more Cubans have been attempting the journey.

Some 5,000 are stranded at Costa Rica's northern border, barred from entering Nicaragua, with a further 1,300 to 1,500 stuck one country further south, in Panama, and unable to enter Costa Rica.

"We're encouraging the countries involved to seek solutions. We're very concerned about the human rights of the migrants," said DeLaurentis, who has the rank of ambassador but has not been given the title to avoid a contentious confirmation battle in the U.S. Senate.

Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis, who is in Cuba to discuss the situation, has warned Cuba and its Central American neighbors that his country cannot maintain the Cubans indefinitely.

Cuban migration to the United States has experienced a number of waves since Fidel Castro's rebels overthrew a pro-American government in 1959 and later aligned Cuba with the Soviet Union.

The latest surge, an increase of nearly 80 percent this year, has taken place since President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro shocked the world a year ago by announcing they had agreed to normalize relations.

Many of the stranded Cubans started by flying from their Caribbean island to Ecuador, where until recently they could enter without a visa.

From Ecuador they begin long trek with eight illegal border crossings reach the U.S. frontier.

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