Twelve Cubans on a makeshift vessel arrived on an ocean-side beach on Lower Matecumbe Key early Tuesday morning, marking the first reported Cuban migrant landing in the Keys this calendar year.
The 10 men and two women arrived at mile marker 75 around 1 a.m., said U.S. Border Patrol Supervisory Agent Adam Hoffner.
All 12 people were “in good health and accounted for,” said Adam Linhardt, spokesman for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.
The new arrivals told Border Patrol agents that they left Punta Alegre, a seaside town on the northern coast of the island country, about seven days ago, Hoffner said.
There hasn’t been a reported maritime landing of Cuban nationals in the Florida Keys since Dec. 22, when seven people arrived in Key West, Hoffner said. Before that, the last landing was in October.
Two years ago, authorities were responding to reports of Cubans arriving in the Keys on rustic and homemade vessels almost weekly, and sometimes multiple times a week. But that ended in the waning days of the Obama administration when he ended the so-called wet-foot, dry-foot policy, which categorized almost all Cubans arriving on U.S. shores from the communist nation as refugees.
Wet-foot, dry-foot was a 1995 change to the Cold War-era Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966. Under the policy, those stopped by U.S. authorities at sea were sent back to Cuba. But Cubans who reached land in the States could stay and apply for permanent residency after a year.
During Obama’s last year in office, Cubans taking notice of the softening diplomatic ties between Washington and the Castro regime fled en masse to all U.S. points of entry anticipating the end of wet-foot, dry-foot.
David Goodhue: 305-923-9728