Coast Guard stops 2 Cuban migrants off the Florida Keys. They say they were at sea 10 days

David Goodhue

Mon, March 1, 2021, 4:55 PM

Two men from Cuba said they were drifting at sea for 10 days before the U.S. Coast Guard found them floating in a small rustic boat off the Florida Keys Monday.

A Coast Guard crew from Station Islamorada responded to the men after a civilian boater saw them and reported their location to the agency.

They were about eight miles off Plantation Key in the Upper Keys, the Coast Guard said.

The Coast Guard small-boat crew transferred the men, who the agency said were in good health, to the cutter Raymond Evans, which took them back to Cuba.

Ever since early 2017, every Cuban caught trying to enter the United States by sea is sent back to the island nation, located 90 miles from Key West.

The decision was one of the last major foreign policy moves by the Obama administration. It was an end to the so-called “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy in which those who set foot on U.S. soil could stay and apply for permanent residency after a year. Those stopped at sea were sent back to Cuba.

Although ending the policy significantly slowed the migration from Cuba to South Florida, many Cubans still risk the dangerous journey across the Florida Straits, many in unseaworthy vessels, for a new life.

U.S. officials in recent months have noticed an uptick in Cuba-to-Florida migration, with the numbers of those stopped at sea this fiscal year, which began in October, already surpassing the previous 12 months.