KEY WEST, Fla. – Cubans are continuing to risk their lives on poorly made boats to cross the treacherous 90 miles of the Florida Straits.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents detained 13 Cuban migrants on Tuesday morning near Key West.
According to Chief Patrol Agent Thomas G. Martin, the migrants were part of a “smuggling event” and agents detained them after they made landfall in a “rustic vessel.”
If they don’t qualify as asylum seekers, officials will likely be deporting the group back to Cuba.
The “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy, established in 1995 and ended in 2017, used to grant Cubans who made landfall on U.S. soil the right to identification, government aid, and a track to U.S. citizenship.
The former U.S. policy was established decades after Congress passed the Cuban Adjustment Act, which allowed Cubans to obtain legal residency after two years in 1966 and later after just one year.
The immigration policies were in response to the Cuban diaspora, which began after Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution and as he started to seize and nationalize property to implement a communist regime.
About six decades later, officials blame the island’s problems on the 1962 U.S. embargo. Critics say the corrupt single-party system is failing Cubans — who face medication and food shortages — and there is growing desperation amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The crisis in Haiti is also keeping agents busy. Last week, agents detained 42 migrants. According to CBP, 19 migrants landed on Key Biscayne and 23 were below deck in a grounded vessel.