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Immigration policies protested

40,000 Cubans rally against ‘unfair’ American laws

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HAVANA — Tens of thousands of people demonstrated Saturday in Cuba against American immigration policies as their government pressed the United States for detailed information about recent arrivals of Cuban migrants in south Florida.

Nearly 40,000 people attended the rally, led by Gen. Raul Castro, Cuba's Defense Minister and Fidel Castro's younger brother.

Although 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez returned to Cuba on June 28 following a protracted custody fight between his father and their Miami relatives, the communist government has promised a rally in a different provincial city every Saturday. The idea is to draw attention to American immigration and other policies Havana considers unfair.

A primary target is the Cuban Adjustment Act, a 1966 law that allows Cubans who reach U.S. soil to apply for permanent residency. Havana maintains the law encourages Cubans, such as Elian's late mother, to emigrate illegally to the United States.

Elian's mother and 10 others perished in the sea journey from Cuba when their boat sank off the coast of Florida.

"We will fight against the diabolical Cuban Adjustment Act until it is no more than an unhappy memory," student speaker Anabel Yanes said at the morning rally in the central town of Yaguajal, about 250 miles east of Havana.

Havana has told Washington it wants more "precise information" about the case of two boatloads of illegal migrants who landed last week in south Florida.

Cuba's Prensa Latina news service reported Friday night that the Foreign Ministry sent its request in a diplomatic note delivered to the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, the American mission there.

The first group was comprised of 25 people, including 10 children. It landed Wednesday in Marathon, Fla. All claimed to have been smuggled into the country.

The second group — 25 men, 11 women and seven children — was spotted at sea by authorities Thursday. Their 32-foot boat rammed the federal boat three times, the U.S. Border Patrol said. No agents were injured. In that second case, two suspected smugglers jumped overboard and were picked up by the Coast Guard. The smugglers' boat ran aground near Islamorada and the Cuban migrants were apprehended.

The 68 migrants are likely to be allowed to stay in the United States under the Cuban Adjustment Act because they made it to shore.

The number of Cubans who attempt the sea journey always rises over the summer, when sea conditions are optimal for crossing the Florida Straits.

So far this year, 1,205 Cubans have entered the United States under the act.