Florida

22 Cuban migrants land in the Florida Keys

A single-engine fishing boat floats off Big Pine Key. The vessel brought three men from Cuba to the Florida Keys on Sunday.
A single-engine fishing boat floats off Big Pine Key. The vessel brought three men from Cuba to the Florida Keys on Sunday. U.S. Border Patrol

Twenty-two Cuban migrants reached the shores of the Florida Keys over the weekend.

Shortly after midnight Sunday, 18 men and one woman set foot on Smathers Beach in Key West. They told U.S. Border Patrol agents they traveled two days on a “single-engine rustic vessel,” said Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Adam Hoffner.

Three men made landfall at 11 a.m. Sunday at Veterans Memorial Park at mile marker 40. They told agents they arrived after a two-day journey at sea on a single-engine fishing boat.

None of the migrants had medical issues, Hoffner said.

Since they made landfall, the men and women will likely be able to stay in the United States. Under the so-called wet-foot, dry-foot changes made to the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act, Cubans who are caught at sea trying to enter the U.S. are sent back to their homeland. Those who step foot on U.S. soil can stay and apply for permanent residency after one year.

Migrant landings and interdictions at sea have both spiked recently. The numbers of Cubans entering all U.S. ports of arrival are also high above what they’ve been in previous years, according to the Pew Research Center.

The fiscal year ended Sept. 30, and by the end of August, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported 46,635 Cubans had entered the country. In all of fiscal year 2015, 43,159 Cubans migrated here. That number was almost double the 24,278 who came in fiscal year 2014.

A main reason for the surge is Cubans fear their instant refugee classification under the Cold War-era Cuban Adjustment Act could soon end because of thawing diplomatic relations between Washington, D.C. and the Castro regime. The more favorably the Castros are viewed by the U.S. government, the more likely wet-foot, dry-foot will be considered outdated and unnecessary, and many in Cuba want to leave before that stance leads to a major policy shift on Cuban migration.

David Goodhue: 305-440-3204

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