A federal judge offered hope for 21 Cubans being held on a U.S. Coast Guard cutter awaiting repatriation back to their homeland.
U.S. District Court Judge Darrin Gayles at a hearing Friday, May 27, scheduled an evidentiary hearing for next Thursday, June 2 at 2 p.m. at the federal courthouse in downtown Miami.
Lawyers with the non-profit group, Movimiento Democracia filed an injunction earlier this week arguing the Cubans should be able to stay in the United States under the wet-foot, dry-foot policy stated under 1995 changes to the Cuban Adjustment Act.
The migrants swam off their makeshift vessel and climbed onto the American Shoal lighthouse off the Lower Keys on Friday, May 20 after being confronted by a U.S. Coast Guard crew.
They stayed on the 109-foot structure for about eight hours before coming down and being taken aboard an undisclosed cutter. Under wet-foot, dry-foot, Cuban migrants caught at sea before making it to land must be returned to Cuba.
Those who make land can stay and apply for permanent residency after a year.
The Coast Guard and the U.S. Attorney's Office argue the lighthouse, which is about 7 nautical miles at sea south of Sugarloaf Key, does not count as dry land under wet-foot, dry foot.
William J. Sanchez-Calderon, one of the several attorneys working on behalf of the migrants, praised both Gayles and the Coast Guard following Friday's decision.
"The Coast Guard has been extremely helpful in this too," he said.