A makeshift boatload of 13 Cuban migrants landed in the Florida Keys before being arrested by US Border Patrol — the latest desperate refugees in a growing wave who are risking their lives to flee the economically ravaged country.
The group filled the boat with supplies they used to survive the 90-mile journey from Cuba to a beach in Key West before being detained by customs officials on Tuesday.
Agents responded to Higgs Beach at about 6:45 a.m. to find a dozen men and a woman who said they had left Cuba the day before, Adam Hoffner, the agency’s spokesman, told the agency. Miami Herald.
He expects the migrants to be deported back to Cuba, where they could face jail time or even harsher sentences from the communist regime.
Their detention marks the second time in four days that Cubans have reached the coast of the Florida Keys, the Herald reports, as migration efforts across the island have skyrocketed.
The migrants traveled from Cuba to the Florida Keys in a makeshift boat full of supplies they needed for the trek.
Border Patrol Chief Agent Thomas G. Martin announced on Twitter on Tuesday that 13 Cuban migrants who arrived in the Florida Keys have been detained.
On Saturday, the Coast Guard said, a Good Samaritan spotted a man floating on a raft near Fowkey Rocks, a few miles from Key Biscayne.
The man said he had been adrift for ten days after leaving Cuba with three other people who died on the trip and needed immediate medical attention.
And on Friday, another 14 immigrants reached the Upper Keys in a rustic wooden boat, telling officials they were at sea for six days.
Federal officials say there has been a spike in migration from Cuba, which has been ravaged by street protests not seen since former leader Fidel Castro came to power. The United States Coast Guard has stopped 648 Cubans in Florida waters since Oct. 1, more than the previous three years combined.
The Coast Guard stopped only 49 migrants from Cuba in the fiscal year ending September 2020. In 2019 they stopped 313 and in 2018 they stopped 259.
The number of Cubans making the perilous journey across the Florida Straits dropped significantly after former President Barack Obama ended the so-called “wet foot, dry foot” policy in early 2017, according to federal data obtained by the Herald.
The policy allowed Cuban migrants who set foot in the United States above the high-water mark to remain in the country and apply for permanent residency, but in turn requires those caught at sea to be returned to Cuba.
Before it was destroyed, the Herald reports, immigration authorities in South Florida faced multiple landings or attempted landings on a weekly basis.
In 2016, 5,396 migrants were stopped in the waters, compared to just 1,486 the following year.
The rule change has forced many Cuban migrants to find another path for asylum in the United States, not unlike the large numbers of Venezuelans and Central Americans crossing the US-Mexico border.
Customs and border protection data obtained by the Washington Post shows that Cubans made 26,000 attempts to cross the land border this fiscal year, up from 14,000 the entire year before.
Javier Fernandez, a former Democratic state representative from Miami, said the rise of the progressive wing in his party could play a role in turning away Cubans coming by sea rather than land.
“Some in the party are concerned that if we condemn what is happening in Cuba, we are somehow making a moral judgment on the most progressive elements of our party who have described themselves as democratic socialists,” he said. Politics.
“That concern … is a false equivalence that only hurts the Democrats here in the United States and especially in South Florida.”
This undated 2004 photo shows two Cubans off the coast of Key West, Florida, attempting to enter the United States in a truck converted into a pontoon boat
The Mariela Boatlift in May 1980 brought more than 100,000 Cubans to the US
But now more and more Cubans are trying to flee to the United States by boat amid an economic crisis exacerbated by COVID-related mandates, heightened sanctions from the former Trump administration and cuts in aid from Venezuela, according to WINK.
United States officials now worry that Cubans could flee en masse from the island — sparking a crisis akin to the Mariel Boatlift in 1980, when Fidel Castro opened Mariel’s harbor to people who wanted to leave.
More than 100,000 Cubans stormed into the United States at the time, causing a political crisis for the administration of US President Jimmy Carter.
Cuban officials now say there are “symptoms” of a potential migration crisis, but say it could be stopped if President Joe Biden lifts the sanctions imposed by his predecessors.
“The situation we have now is the result of a number of negative factors,” Jesus Perz Calderon of Cuba’s US State Department told WINK.
“First of all, the deterioration of the economy due to COVID-19…but at the same time the revival of an economic blockade war against Cuba by the US.”
The combination sparked widespread protests across the island last month, with many calling for “libertad” while others attempted to flee the country.
Cuban migrants blocked the border crossing bridge last December, demanding they be allowed to cross the United States and apply for asylum
A man was arrested last month during a demonstration against the government of President Miguel Diaz-Canel in Havana
The head of Biden’s Homeland Security, Havana-born Alejandro Mayorkas, has warned Cubans to move away from US shores.
“Let me be clear: if you go out to sea, you don’t come to the United States,” Mayorkas said. “Any migrant intercepted at sea, regardless of nationality, will not enter the United States. This risk is not worth taking.’
He said 20 people have died on their boat trips in recent weeks, noting: “Our priority is to preserve and save lives.”