What Southern Border? Coast Guard Deports Another 29 Cubans on Rafts

by FRANCES MARTEL 11 Aug 2021

The U.S. Coast Guard announced this week that it had deported 29 Cuban nationals found attempting to reach Florida by sea, the independent Cuban outlet 14 y Medio reported Tuesday.

The 29 join another 27 deported at the end of last month using makeshift vessels to navigate the straits of Florida. The first group was believed at the time to be the first to attempt the crossing into America following the nationwide anti-communist protests that occurred on July 11.

The July 11 protests triggered a wave of disproportionate violence by the Communist Party and its repressive forces against both protesters and people suspected of simply disagreeing with Marxist ideology. Cubans documented instances of state security forces opening fire on unarmed crowds that had assembled to call for the end of the 62-year-old regime and door-to-door raids in which participants in the protests, confronted days later, were beaten in their own homes and shot in front of their children. Human rights groups have confirmed over 1,000 arrests and forced disappearances of individuals believed to disagree with the government since July 11.

The overwhelming evidence of extreme state repression against political dissidents has not changed President Joe Biden’s strict policy of denying Cuban balseros — or “rafters,” named after their homemade sea vessels — entry into the United States. During Biden’s vice-presidential term, former boss Barack Obama eradicated a policy then known as “wet foot/dry foot,” which allowed Cubans who made it to American soil to stay in the country. Obama also greatly enhanced Cuban Communist Party revenue through cruise tourism and other forms of U.S. travel to the island. While the longstanding “embargo” policy should, in theory, ban Americans from engaging in tourism in Cuba, Obama’s Cuba policy was defined by glamorous images of celebrities like Beyoncé and Kanye West living a life of luxury in Havana through “cultural” and “people-to-people” exceptions to this ban.

A Coast Guard statement published Sunday attributed the capture and deportation of the 29 Cubans to the work of four “good Samaritans” who notified the Coast Guard of “suspicious vessels” near the Florida Keys. The interceptions of the vessels all reportedly occurred last week; the largest one contained 20 people; the smallest, two men.

The vessels contained 31 people total, but three were not deported.

“One migrant was determined to have a valid manifestation of fear and is being transferred to the proper authorities,” the Coast Guard statement read, without elaborating. Two others, “suspected of human smuggling,” remain under the custody of the Department of Homeland Security.

The Coast Guard shared photos of two of the vessels — one carrying two men, and one carrying five people (according to the Coast Guard’s caption), three of which are visible and wearing American flag vests.


#HappenedYesterday@USCG Cutter Raymond Evans repatriated 29 Cubans to #Cuba following four interdictions off the #Florida Keys. Check it out: https://lnks.gd/2/WvqHVP#DontTakeToTheSeas@CBPAMORegDirSE@CBPAMO@USEmbCuba@USBPChiefMIP@HSI_Miami

10:22 AM · Aug 10, 2021

The Coast Guard has greatly increased the number of interdictions of Cubans at sea between October 2020 and today. According to its own numbers, released along with the public statement on the latest deportations last week, it has forced 648 Cubans during that time to return to the island. In all of the 2020 Fiscal Year, that number was 49. A significant drop in the number of interdictions occurred between fiscal year 2017 — the first year President Donald Trump was in office — and the equivalent span of time in 2018, from 1,468 people to just 259.

The Biden administration has sternly warned Cubans not to come to the United States by sea and repeated its rejection of oppressed Cuban people in the immediate aftermath of the July 11 protests.

“The time is never right to attempt migration by sea. To those who risk their lives doing so, this risk is not worth taking,” Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas warned last month. “Allow me to be clear: If you take to the sea, you will not come to the United States.”

The Coast Guard has also warned Cuban-Americans not to aid any Cubans found at sea trying to reach America and not to attempt to travel to Cuba to help the Cuban people.

“Vessels and persons illegally entering Cuban territorial waters … without the required permit may be subject to seizure of their vessel, civil and criminal penalties up to $25,000 per day, and 10 years in prison,” the Coast Guard asserted in a statement following the protests. “People who violate U.S. immigration laws and illegally bring foreign nationals into the country or who attempt to do so may be subject to arrest, vessel forfeiture, civil and criminal fines up to $250,000 per day, and five years in prison.”

The end of “wet foot/dry foot” prompted a wave of Cuban refugees to change plans away from traveling by sea, which would require them to build their own vessels and travel individually, and towards attempting a trip across Central America to the U.S. southern border. The latter greatly enriches the human trafficking organized crime syndicates that dominate travel routes north and has resulted in surging numbers of asylum claims at the border. Like Central Americans, Cuban have attempted to organize their own “caravans” north upon arriving on the mainland, denied other options for asylum.

President Joe Biden campaigned on easing immigration restrictions for both those coming from the south and immigrants from countries that predecessor Donald Trump had limited numbers from. During a debate against Trump in October, Biden vowed to create a pathway to citizenship for 11 million people in the United States illegally during his first 100 days in office, a promise he did not keep.

The Biden administration welcomed over 600,000 migrants to the United States through the southern border between Biden’s inauguration in late January and mid-July.