HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – Officials intercepted a suspected migrant vessel headed toward Hollywood Beach Thursday afternoon.
Three migrants reportedly swam to shore and were detained by U.S. Border Patrol officials on land, sources said. Roughly a dozen others were intercepted at sea.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations and U.S. Coast Guard crews were also at the scene.
Sky 10 flew over the scene as migrants were being loaded onto a U.S. Coast Guard vessel from their boat, named “Casper 2.”
At least some of the migrants are Cuban, sources confirmed.
“They started whistling at us to get out,” said a man named Vasko, who was swimming with his daughter as smoke was coming from the migrants’ boat.
He thought it was a boat accident but it turned out to be what federal authorities are calling suspected smuggling.
“The next thing you know the whole beach was with police,” he said. “Communism is an evil thing. We should prevent it. We should escape it and we should fight it.”
What Vasko called an evil system is part of the reason Cubans are fleeing in record breaking numbers.
By land, close to 178,000 Cubans have crossed the US-Mexico border since October of last year.
By sea, about 5,000 have arrived in the same time frame.
Experts keeping count say this is the largest total number of Cubans who migrated to the US in less than a year since 1959.
Earlier in the day, 17 Cuban migrants were taken into custody after a landing in Islamorada, officials said.
As for the three men who made it to shore, an immigration attorney told Local 10 News what they can expect.
“They’re going to get a chance to present a credible fear interview,” said attorney Willy Allen. “They’re going to get a chance to present a political asylum (case).”