Immigration News 2014: Coast Guard Rescues 33 Suspected Cuban Migrants

By Andre F. Puglie (
First Posted: Oct 29, 2014 05:57 PM EDT

A U.S. Coast Guard boat participates in the Homeland Security Task Force Southeast mass migration drill March 8, 2007 off the shore of Miami, Fla. (Photo : Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The U.S. Coast Guard on Wednesday rescued nearly three dozen individuals whose boat was sinking off the coast of Florida, the Palm Beach Post reported. The 33 individuals are believed to be Cuban migrants.

The operation came in the midst of an unrelated rescue effort in which Guardsmen had been scouring the waters for two other Cuban nationals. They spotted the vessel, which was taking on water, from a surveillance aircraft.

In coordination with local law enforcement, the Coast Guard sent out two cutters, among other assets, to aid the troubled passengers, the Palm Beach Post continued. A spokesman for the force told the Miami Herald that the incident occurred about 7 miles east of Boca Raton in the Atlantic Ocean.

"Upon our assets arriving on scene, the suspected migrants were taken aboard Coast Guard smallboat and safely transferred to a Coast Guard Cutter for basic medical attention if needed," the Coast Guard said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the search continued for the two individuals missing since Monday. They had been part of a group of 13 Cuban rafters, only eleven of which had made it safely to land. The refugees had been trying to reach Miami when their makeshift boat broke apart, the Miami Herald said.

The Sun Sentinel detailed that the boat involved in Wednesday's incident was christened "La Patrona" and that its passengers "clung to the side of the boat (as) two men kept paddling with oars." The Coast Guard, it said, rescued them "in the nick of time."

"We found them right when they were jumping off their boat," Petty Officer 3rd Class Mark Barney told the newspaper. "They're lucky to have made it out of that situation in one piece."

Given the U.S. so-called "wet foot, dry foot policy," it's likely that most of the suspected migrants will be repatriated to Cuba. Under that rule, nationals of the Communist island who are apprehended before making it ashore are not allowed to remain in the United States.