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US Coast Guard Reports Surge of Cuban Immigrants

Members of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Knight Island approach a boat with 12 Cuban migrants southwest of Key West, Florida, Dec. 30, 2014.

The U.S. Coast Guard says the the number of Cubans picked up at sea trying to reach the United States has surged since President Barack Obama announced plans to restore diplomatic relations with Havana.

Coast Guard officials say vessels picked up 121 Cuban migrants at sea last week and returned them to the island.

Coast Guard Rear Admiral Jake Korn said Monday there is no change in U.S. immigration policy regarding Cuba. He said only Congress can change the so-called "wet foot, dry foot" act, which allows Cubans who reach the United States to stay.

Some Cubans say they are afraid that diplomatic relations with the United States will mean tighter immigration restrictions.

The Coast Guard has increased patrols in the waters between Cuba and the Florida keys and discourages everyone from trying to make the dangerous crossing.

It says any Cubans picked up at sea will be sent back.

President Obama made history last month when he announced plans to ease the more than 50-year-old economic embargo on Cuba and restore diplomatic ties cut in 1961, two years after Fidel Castro seized power.