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Immigration Activists Call on US to Soften Stance on Haitians

Haitian leaders in the United States are criticizing a decision by U.S. immigration officials to detain 43 illegal immigrants from Haiti while allowing a Cuban traveling with them to go free.

A fishing boat carrying the Haitians, the Cuban and a Jamaican landed on a beach in the southeastern U.S. state of Florida last Friday. The migrants were picked up by U.S. authorities.

Washington allows Cubans who reach U.S. shores to stay and apply for citizenship, but it requires refugees from other countries to be sent home. Exceptions can be made if the refugees can prove they have a credible fear of persecution if they are sent back.

The head of a Miami-based Haitian women's group, Marleine Bastien, has called on the government to give each of the boat's passengers a so-called "credible fear" interview.

Other activists say the United States should extend Temporary Protected Status to Haitians, allowing them to remain in the United States for a limited time because of problems in their home country. Some Central Americans have such status in the United States because their home countries were devastated by natural disasters.

Activists say Haiti's political turmoil should qualify its citizens for the protected status.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.