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The U.S. and Cuba clashed on Wednesday over policy on immigration at their first session of talks with high-level officials in an attempt to restore full diplomatic ties between the two who have been adversaries for more than 50 years.
Despite the objections from Havana, the Americans vowed to keep granting immigrants from Cuba special status that would allow nearly every Cuban reaching soil in the U.S. to remain, while nationals from other countries are deported if they arrived under the same or similar circumstances.
On Thursday the talks continue with both sides ready to discuss restoring relations and eventually opening full travel and trade ties.
The meetings of two days are the first since President Barack Obama and Raul Castro his Cuban counterpart announced in December they reached a breakthrough of historic proportions following secret negotiations for 18 months.
Under the current policy the U.S. has with Cuban immigrants, referred to as the wet foot/dry foot, Cubans who are stopped by law enforcement officials from the U.S. at sea must be returned to Cuba, while those found on dry land can stay.
Josefina Vidal the official from the foreign ministry in Cuba leading their talks reiterated the opposition Cuba has to the immigration policy for Cubans in the U.S., telling reporters that the unique treatment promotes people trafficking, illegal immigration and dangerous travel through the Florida Straits on makeshift sailing vessels.
President Obama set the U.S. on a path to removing all economic sanctions and a trade embargo of 53 years against the Caribbean island nation.
Obama urged the U.S. Congress to begin working on ending its embargo, but his critics say the president first must win concession on; political prisoners in Cuba and more democratic rights, the claims of citizens of the U.S. whose property had been nationalized following the 1959 revolution in Cuba and the fugitives from the U.S. who were given asylum by Cuba.
When Roberta Jacobson the leader of the U.S. delegation landed in Cuba on Wednesday she was the first assistant secretary of state from the U.S. to visit the country in 38 years.