Florida Keys

Migrants run away after landing in the Florida Keys

Six or seven migrants landed in the Upper Florida Keys early Thursday morning, and initial reports indicate most of them have not been caught by authorities.

The people landed at mile marker 87 in Islamorada in the Upper Keys, said Adam Linhardt, spokesman for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.

“Initial reports suggest six or seven landed, but then quickly dispersed,” he said.

Authorities found two people from the group, said a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. One woman with the group was found later in the morning about two miles north of where the migrants made landfall, Linhardt said.

The people are from Cuba, and they arrived on a small sailboat, according to the government spokesman.

“U.S. Border Patrol is investigating the circumstances and reports of several migrants departing the area,” the spokesman said in a statement

Up until early 2017, people from Cuba who set foot on U.S. soil would be allowed to stay in the country and apply for permanent residency after a year. Those caught at sea were sent back to Cuba.

However, the Obama administration, in one of its last foreign policy decisions ended that protocol, dubbed “wet-foot, dry-foot,” because it had reestablished diplomatic ties with the Castro regime. After that, Cubans were subject to the same immigration and visa rules as people from any other nation.

Maritime migration from the island country 90 miles south of Key West had surged in the months prior to the policy shift because Cubans anticipated the change. But, after the decision was announced, landings, as well as at-sea migrant interdictions by the Coast Guard and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, slowed significantly.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

David Goodhue covers the Florida Keys and South Florida for FLKeysNews.com and the Miami Herald. Before joining the Herald, he covered Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.