Coast Guard stopped 55 migrants from entering the U.S. during the 4th of July weekend

Group of rafters arrives in Miami and evade police

A group of Cuban rafters arrived in Sunny Isles Beach on Wednesday, March 20, 2019.
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A group of Cuban rafters arrived in Sunny Isles Beach on Wednesday, March 20, 2019.

The U.S. Coast Guard says it stopped more than 50 migrants from entering the country illegally during the Fourth of July weekend in two separate at-sea incidents, including one off Key West.

On July 6, the Coast Guard Sector Key West received a tip from what it called a good Samaritan vessel that there was a 24-foot “wooden rustic vessel” carrying more than 30 people about 27 miles south of Key West, the Coast Guard said.

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter William Trump intercepted 33 Cuban migrants — 27 men and six women — “due to safety concerns with the vessel,” the Coast Guard said.

On July 3, members of the Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville got tips from the vessel Bochem London of a disabled vessel with more than 20 people aboard about 130 miles northeast of Jacksonville.

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Seneca interdicted 22 Haitian migrants — 17 men, 4 women and one child, due to the same type of safety concerns with the vessel.

A Coast Guard commander said in both incidents the migrants were trying to enter the U.S. illegally.

“The Coast Guard continues to maintain a focused and coordinated effort with multiple agency assets to interdict any attempt to dangerously and unlawfully immigrate by sea to the United States,” said Commander Michael Vega, of the Coast Guard 7th District enforcement branch.

“Those who are interdicted at sea attempting to illegally immigrate will be repatriated to their country in accordance with existing U.S. immigration policy,” Vega said.

Even under the old “wet foot, dry foot” U.S. immigration policy toward Cuba, the Cuban migrants would have been sent home. The policy mandated that any Cuban national caught at sea would be returned. Those who made land could stay and apply for permanent residency after a year.

The Obama administration, in one of its last major foreign policy moves, ended the policy as it reestablished diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Gwen Filosa covers Key West and the Lower Florida Keys for FLKeysNews.com and the Miami Herald and lives in Key West. She was part of the staff at the New Orleans Times-Picayune that in 2005 won two Pulitzer Prizes for coverage of Hurricane Katrina. She graduated from Indiana University.