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U.S. asylum officer to determine fate of rescued Cuban castaways, attorney says

U.S. asylum officer to determine fate of rescued Cuban castaways, attorney says
U.S. asylum officer to determine fate of rescued Cuban castaways, attorney says

MIAMI – After three Cubans were stranded on an uninhabited Bahamian island for 33 days, the U.S. Coast Guard saved their lives and flew them to U.S. soil for medical attention in Monroe County.

The woman and two men were in the custody of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Thursday at the Broward Transitional Center in Pompano Beach.

Attorney Wilfredo O. Allen said the series of events paved the way for them to be able to make their case to stay in the U.S.

“Had they been taken back to the Bahamas, it’s a done deal,” Allen said.

Immigration officials detain three Cubans the U.S. Coast Guard rescued from an uninhabited Bahamian island after they survived there for 33 days.

In about two weeks, Allen said, an asylum officer will interview them to determine if there is credible fear of persecution or harm if they return to Cuba.

If the officer determines there is credible fear, they will be able to file for political asylum and go before an immigration judge. They can request to be released from detention.

“Worst case scenario is that they’re denied release and that they would have to present and fight the political asylum in detention,” Allen said.

Coast Guard pilot spots castaways who had been stranded on an uninhabited island for 33 days. (U.S. Coast Guard)

A U.S. Coast Guard crew found the three survivors during a routine patrol.

The castaways said their boat capsized in rough waters and they were able to swim to Anguilla Cay, a small island where they survived on meat from conch and rats. Flags and a cross helped the pilot to spot them.

Allen said he suspects the U.S. Coast Guard’s decision to fly them to U.S. soil for medical treatment means the U.S. immigration judge will have jurisdiction to determine if they have a right to asylum in the U.S.


About the Authors:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba. 

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.