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White House Looks At Wet Foot/Dry Foot
Wednesday, January 18, 2006   By: Juan Paxety

Officials to meet

From Net For Cuba

White House promises to meet with Cuban exile leaders on ''wet foot, dry foot'' policy

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White House spokesman Blair Jones told The Miami Herald tonight that the Bush administration has agreed to meet with exile leaders to discuss the ''wet foot, dry foot'' policy -- the most controversial aspect of U.S. immigration policy toward Cuba.

''The administration has reached out to representatives of the Cuban American community to express our interest in hearing and understanding their concerns about U.S. migration policy toward Cuba,'' Jones said.

``We have agreed to meet with appropriate representatives of the community, and we are discussing the date for such a meeting and are committed to holding it as soon as possible.''

The White House's promise comes on the 11th day of a hunger strike by Cuban exile activist Ramón Saúl Sánchez, who wants Washington to commit to reviewing the policy.

Told of the White House declaration, Sánchez was thrilled and said that he would eat once the promise was official.

''I think it's a great step and I am very happy to hear that, and as soon as I see that formalized by their side in a statement or in writing, I will stop the hunger strike,'' he said.

Sánchez's latest protest follows the U.S. Coast Guard's repatriation of 15 Cubans on Jan. 9 who were found on pilings in a section of the old Flagler Bridge in the Florida Keys. The Coast Guard determined that because the inoperable bridge is not connected to land, the migrants should not be granted asylum.

Earlier Tuesday, Miami--Dade County commissioners proposed a resolution that would ask the federal government to review the policy, increasing the pressure on Washington to act soon.

Several county commissioners -- including Joe Martinez, Rebeca Sosa and Carlos Gimenez -- descended Tuesday afternoon on the Southwest Eighth Street scene where Sanchez is carrying out the hunger strike.

''My goal was for him to see that we are going to take up the fight for him and maybe he would give up his hunger strike, but he said no,'' said Commissioner Joe Martinez.

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Auxiliary Bishop Agustín Román have been negotiating for several days to help broker a meeting in Washington between Bush administration officials and Cuban exile leaders to discuss the policy.



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