MIAMI – The U.S. Coast Guard has been issuing more reports about migrants who are risking their lives in the Florida Straits to get to the United States.
Most recently, the law enforcement service reported 16 migrants vanished at sea after a tragic end to their voyages in two derelict vessels.
The Coast Guard also reported rescuing eight Cubans who were in a makeshift wooden sailboat on Feb. 8, and seven Cubans who were on a small wooden boat on Jan. 12.
“As the economic situation in Cuba gets worse, we could see an illegal attempt of more Cubans trying to make it to the United States,” said Andy Gomez, a professor emeritus of Cuban studies at the University of Miami.
The Coast Guard also rescued three Cubans after a pilot spotted them on Feb. 9 stranded on an uninhabited Bahamian island where they survived for 33 days.
It’s unclear if they had been on a voyage to the U.S. when their vessel failed. They were in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the Broward Transitional Center in Pompano Beach.
Attorney Wilfredo O. Allen, who focuses on immigration, said many Cuban migrants are finding themselves in limbo. He said every day a Cuban walks into his office asking for help.
“I have had Cubans come in by airplane that came in with a visa and are staying,” Allen said. “I have had Cubans come in with a Spanish passport and are staying. I have had Cubans that jumped the border in Mexico and are staying.”
Amid the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in Cuba, experts in South Florida are concerned that there is an ongoing crisis that could develop into a Cuban exodus reminiscent of the Mariel boatlift in the 1980s and the rafter crisis of 1994.
In 2017, former President Barack Obama put an end to the “wet foot, dry foot” policy, a 1995 interpretation of the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966. Former President Donald Trump followed by targeting asylum seekers and detaining them for months.
Trump also banned U.S. cruise ships from taking tourists to Cuba, and made it difficult for Cubans in South Florida to be able to send money to relatives on the island. President Joe Biden has yet to announce his changes to Trump’s Cuba policy.
Jan. 21: Experts discuss Biden’s Cuba policy