Bridge rafters returned to Cuba

Via Michael Pancier, the 15 rafters that made it to the bridge have been repatriated:

15 Cubans who reached Old Seven Mile Bridge bridge sent home

By LAURA WIDES-MUNOZ
Associated Press
Posted January 9 2006, 2:19 PM EST

MIAMI — Fifteen Cuban migrants who fled their homeland and landed on an abandoned bridge in the Florida Keys were returned to their homeland Monday after U.S. officials concluded that the piling did not constitute dry land, authorities said.

Under the U.S. government’s “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy, Cubans who reach dry land in the United States are usually allowed to remain in the country, while those caught at sea are sent back.

Earlier Monday, officials said the Cubans were aboard a U.S. Coast Guard cutter, as they awaited a final decision as to their status.

The historic Old Seven Mile Bridge, which runs side by side with a newer bridge, is missing several chunks, and the Cubans had the misfortune of reaching pilings from a section that no longer touches land.

The federal government said that means the group never actually reached U.S. territory, and could be sent home.

An attorney representing relatives of the Cubans had filed an emergency request Monday to prevent them from being sent back. The attorney asked the government to review the question of whether the bridge constitutes dry land.

The Cubans, including a 2-year-old boy and a 13-year-old boy, left Matanzas Province in Cuba late on the night of Jan. 2 aboard a small, homemade boat. They were rescued by the Coast Guard from the base of the bridge just south of Marathon Key.

“The particular structure that they were found upon is not connected to land. The `bridge’ is kind of a misnomer,” said Coast Guard Lt. Commander Chris O’Neil, spokesman for the department’s Southeast region.

O’Neil said officials in Washington determined the Cubans should be considered “feet wet,” because they were not able to walk to land from where they landed.

At least a dozen Cuban-Americans protested the Cubans’ situation Monday outside the Coast Guard headquarters in Miami Beach.

“They are trying to go as far as they can … to take away the immigrants’ rights,” said Ramon Saul Sanchez, head of the Democracy Movement, a Cuban-American advocacy group.

Veteran immigration attorney Ira Kurzban, who is not involved in the case, called the Coast Guard decision ridiculous.

“The wet-foot, dry-foot policy has no foundation in law,” he said. Kurzban said the policy is inconsistent with U.S. and international law, noting that the federal government’s jurisdiction extends beyond dry land to waters as far out as 100 miles.

“International law says that refugees should be granted a hearing before they are forcibly returned,” he said.

The Coast Guard announced that the 15 bridge Cubans were among 67 returned to their homeland later Monday. The group included 14 migrants intercepted four miles south of Boot Key on Jan. 1; 10 migrants were interdicted 30 miles south of Marquesas on Jan. 2; 12 migrants who were interdicted 25 miles south of Dry Tortugas on Jan. 4; and 12 migrants located 30 miles southwest of Cabo San Antonio, Cuba, by the research vessel Joides Resolution.

The wet-foot/dry-foot, an affront to the very ideals that make this country what it is.

13 thoughts on “Bridge rafters returned to Cuba”

  1. What an outrage. It’s a day of shame for the United States!
    Does anyone within our readership have a copy, or access to, the actual wording of the so-called wet foot-dry foot policy?
    Is it an actual law “in the books” somewhere? If so, where?
    I’d dearly love to see how the policy defines U.S. territory. I have been in the Florida Keys innumerable times, particularly during the 15 years that I was a resident of Miami. I visited many of the little islands, even some of them completely uninhabited, and they were always, regardless of how small, considered U.S. territory.
    According to the reasoning used to justify the return of this group of 15 refugees who “landed” on the 7-mile bridge, even people who arrive in other locations not physically connected in any way to the mainland –such as the Dry Tortugas– could be repatriated to Cuba, because after all, the refugees wouldn’t be able to walk to the mainland from there, either.
    When is this odious practice going to stop?
    When is someone going to raise a voice on behalf of those innocent folks seeking freedom? Whatever happened to “send me your tired, your poor, the wretched refuse yearning to be free… (I’m going on memory here, so it may a less than accurate quote)” inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty? Is Lady Liberty hiding her face in shame right now?
    I hope that some capable –and sufficiently enraged– immigration attorneys in the South Florida area will rise to challenge in court this decision by “our” government.
    Ya no m’as!
    JulioZ

  2. the lawyer that is quoted, ira kurzban, is married to magda monteil davis (or was, maybe they got divorced).. shes best remembered for giving fidel a hug.. granma ran an interview with her a year or two ago about the whole incident.. anyways ira is a regular guest on arucas show and does alot of work with hatian groups.. his denouncing the policy may be more from a send them all back/ make immigration equal for all (ie: no special clauses for cubans)

  3. This is an outrage. What next, gunning them down like the East Germans did to those fleeing to the west? Yes Julio lady liberty is surely weeping.

  4. the origin was enacted by President Clinton in the 1995 revision of the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966.

  5. What bulls…but so typical of the Washington bureaucracy – the name of the so-called “policy” should be changed from “wet foot/dry foot” to “The Humpty Dumpty Refugee Rules,” because the rules are whatever the eggheaded bureaucrat of the day says they are.

    Things sure are turned upside down these days.

  6. I am immune to the disgust already. It is a daily, weekly, monthly outrage and no voice, other than ours and a few others, is lifted in protest. What a sad state of affairs…

  7. How horrible!! After all they went through they get sent back to face abuse from their CDR.

    There is a lot of blame to go around:

    Why doesn’t W change a CLINTON policy?

    Out of 800,000+/- Cubans in South Florida, only a dozen or so can show up to protest?

  8. I just talk to people in Miami and had my theory confirmed. The cubans in Miami ARN’T in the streets with signs in indignation like they were duing Elian. A lot of people there havnt even heard of it because i guess the news isnt emphasizing it. what a shame. why arnt the cubans in miami just as pissed off about this. whats the diffrence. i mean, there was a 2 year old and a 13 year old that they sent back, only after reaching the US. Why does political loyalty always outweigh justice and truth?

  9. The lack of massive Cuban-American reaction to this can be attributed to several factors:

    – Relative lack of media coverage
    – The lingering aftertaste of the Elian fiasco
    – Immunity to these types of events, as George described.

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