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Future of Cuban migrants unclear after being rescued from American Shoal Lighthouse

Advocacy group hires immigration attorney in hopes of allowing migrants to stay


MIAMI – A group of Cuban migrants who were rescued from a lighthouse off Sugarloaf Key on Friday are in legal limbo right now.

Under the "wet foot, dry foot" policy, the migrants could be sent back to Cuba since they never reached land.

But a local advocacy group is taking legal action to try to allow them to stay.

Felipe Gamboa showed Local 10 News pictures of his two sons, Zoltan and Felipe Gamboa Jr., who he hopes are part of the 21 Cuban migrants who made it to the American Shoal Light, about five miles offshore from Sugarloaf Key. 

After a standoff that lasted more than five hours, the migrants eventually came down and are now in the custody of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Gamboa said he received a call from their mother in Cuba, who said their two sons had headed out to sea from Havana.

But there's also been inquiries about a second group of migrants who recently left the province of Villa Clara. 

"People are desperate," immigration attorney Virlenys Palma said. "They've been waiting all weekend to find out and to get some information from the Coast Guard, to no avail."

The Democracy Movement is working nonstop to try and get some confirmation from Coast Guard officials about who is in custody.

The list is getting longer as there are 35 names of Cuban migrants who are either on the Coast Guard cutter, are still at sea or possibly even lost in the Florida Straits. 

"Anyone who feels for these people really would like to see them get the opportunity to stay," U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Florida, said.

Curbelo said his office is keeping in close contact with the Coast Guard and President Barack Obama's administration about the migrants.

Still, he says this is a wake-up call that the U.S. is in the midst of a migrant crisis -- a Cuban exodus that hasn't been seen since the mid-1990s. 


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