The U.S. Coast Guard repatriated 15 Cubans who were attempting to illegally enter the United States and who were intercepted in waters of the Strait of Florida, the institution reported.
The Cubans were detained before touching U.S. soil after being sighted, on board a rustic vessel, by a Coast Guard turboprop plane and they were subsequently repatriated to Bahía de Cabañas, in northern Cuba.
According to what the institution specified in a press release, the 15 immigrants were discovered some 65 miles to the southeast of the Dry Tortugas National Park, a string of islets on the Gulf of Mexico and to the west of Key West, and they were transferred to a vessel of the institution, where they were given medical care, in addition to water and food.
Commander Willie Carmichael, assistant chief of the seventh district of the Coast Guard, warned about how “dangerous” these attempts were and pointed out that they will keep “a constant presence to stop and prevent illegal migration,” as well as doing whatever possible to rescue “those who take risks on boats not apt for navigation.”
The U.S. Coast Guard noted in the press release that since last October 1, when fiscal year 2018 began, 31 Cubans have attempted to illegally enter that country by sea, while in all of the last fiscal year, which ended on September 30, 1,934 Cubans were intercepted.
Both figures pale when compared to the 7,411 Cubans intercepted during the fiscal year of 2016 and the 4,473 of fiscal year 2015, periods in which the arrival of immigrants from the island to that country shot up in the face of the uncertainty over a possible change in the U.S. migration policy toward Cuba.
Up to January of this year, Cubans who touched U.S. territory were favored by the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act and its wet foot/dry foot policy, while the others were deported to the island.
The regulation was eliminated by the Barack Obama government, who, together with Cuban President Raúl Castro, began a process of normalization of relations between both governments in late 2014.
Eight days before the conclusion of his mandate, in January 2017, Obama put an end to the wet foot/dry foot policy applied by the United States since 1996 for Cuban migrants who arrived illegally to that country. The abolishment of the Parole program for Cuban doctors on missions was also announced.
“Today, the United States is taking important steps forward to normalize relations with Cuba and to bring greater consistency to our immigration policy…,” said Obama’s press release at the time.
In April 2017, for the first time in seven years, the U.S. Coast Guard did not intercept any rafters from the island in a month, a sign of the impact in the change of policy.
Coast Guard Commander Paul F. Zufunft told The Wall Street Journal that they hadn’t had a single Cuban migrant and that on a typical day at that time of the year they would have probably collected between 50 and 150 Cuban migrants.
According to Zukunft, the end of the wet foot/dry foot migration policy by the Obama administration was the key to the reduction of migrants from the island.
EFE / OnCuba