Judge wants to know more about lighthouse before determining fate of Cuban migrants

Attorney for migrants says American Shoal Light should be considered US soil

MIAMI – A federal judge wants to learn more about the Florida Keys lighthouse that 21 Cuban migrants climbed before making a determination about their future.

Judge Darrin Gayles said in court Friday that he doesn't want to rush to a decision about the fate of the Cuban migrants and wants to research the American Shoal Light, where the migrants landed last week after crossing the Florida Straits.

"The judge was very fair in his decision today," attorney Joseph Geller said. "He wants to be sure he has an opportunity to hear all the facts so that he can make the right decision and the just decision."

Under the "wet foot, dry foot" policy, Cubans who reach U.S. soil are typically allowed to stay, while those intercepted at sea are sent back.

Geller argued that his clients were on U.S. soil when they reached the lighthouse, which extends from the water off Sugarloaf Key.

The 21 migrants are on a U.S. Coast Guard cutter, where they have remained since last Friday.

Dexter Lee, an attorney representing the Coast Guard, did not want to comment, but he said in court that by the time a hearing is held, it will have been 13 days that the migrants spent on the cutter.

Lee said the cutter is not designed to keep migrants for extended periods of time.

A lawsuit claims the 136-year-old lighthouse should qualify as U.S. territory.

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