Almost two dozen men from Cuba washed ashore in the Middle Florida Keys by boat early Thursday morning.
The migrants all appeared to be healthy and uninjured, said Adam Linhardt, spokesman for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.
They were found at Veteran’s Memorial Park, mile marker 42 on the ocean side of U.S. 1, on the south end of the Seven Mile Bridge on Little Duck Key, Linhardt said.
A rustic blue vessel that had run aground was found nearby.
The men told U.S. Border Patrol agents that they left Santa Cruz del Norte, a town located on Cuba’s north shore, on Dec. 31., said Adam Hoffner, Border Patrol agent in charge of the Keys.
Border Patrol agents processed them for removal back to Cuba, Hoffner said.
Three years ago, similar migrant landings were almost a daily occurrence in the Florida Keys and South Florida. Under the “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy, Cubans who made it to dry land or any U.S. port of entry were allowed to stay in the country and apply for permanent residency a year after they arrived.
Those who were stopped at sea, however, were sent back to Cuba.
President Barack Obama, in one of his administration’s last foreign policy moves, ended wet-foot, dry-foot in the final days of presidency. His administration and the Castro regime were reestablishing diplomatic ties, so there was little reason to grant Cubans fleeing the country what amounted to automatic refugee status.
Many Cubans anticipated the move and there was a wave of migration from the communist island nation in 2016. Since wet-foot, dry-foot ended, maritime arrivals, and attempted arrivals, have become increasingly rare.