A month has passed, and Cuban migrants still on Coast Guard cutter
Judge could rule on their immigration status this week
Decision will be based on intepretation of wet-foot, dry-foot
Homeland Security says they should be sent back to Cuba
BY DAVID GOODHUE
A month has passed since more than 20 Cuban migrants were placed on a
U.S. Coast Guard cutter and relegated to immigration limbo as they wait
for a federal judge to decide if a lighthouse anchored to the reef off
the Lower Florida Keys counts as dry land under the so-called wet-foot,
U.S. District Court Judge Darrin Gayles could make that ruling this week.
"It's already been four weeks since they've been aboard that cutter,"
said Ramon Saul Sanchez, with the immigration advocacy group Movimiento
Democracia, or Democracy Movement.
The nonprofit filed an injunction against the U.S. Department of
Homeland Security on May 24 temporarily halting the migrants
repatriation to Cuba. Under wet-foot, dry-foot — a 1995 change to the
Cuban Adjustment Act — Cuban migrants immigrating to the United States
by sea can stay here if they reach dry land. They must be sent back to
Cuba if caught at sea.
Twenty-one of the migrants swam off their makeshift vessel and climbed
onto the American Shoal lighthouse off the Lower Keys on May 20 after
being confronted by a U.S. Coast Guard crew. Two were immediately caught
after jumping into the water.
The migrants stayed on the 109-foot-tall structure for about eight hours
before coming down and being taken aboard an undisclosed cutter. Three
men in the group hid inside the lighthouse after the others surrendered
and weren't found until the next day.
The Coast Guard and the U.S. Attorney's Office argue the lighthouse,
which is about seven nautical miles at sea south of Sugarloaf Key, does
not count as dry land under wet-foot, dry foot.
David Goodhue: 305-440-3204
Source: Cuban migrants in standoff on Keys lighthouse still on Coast
Guard cutter a month later | Miami Herald -