Florida Keys

Nearly two dozen Cuban migrants celebrate New Year with Florida Keys landing

Cuban migrants coming ashore near Key Largo on Jan. 1, 2016 in a photo captured by a passerby.
Cuban migrants coming ashore near Key Largo on Jan. 1, 2016 in a photo captured by a passerby. Photo courtesy Margo Roth

Twenty-two Cuban migrants landed in the Florida Keys on Friday, the first known island rafters to reach the United States in the new year.

The landing, first reported by WPLG-ABC 10, raised to more than 100 the number of Cuban migrants who reached South Florida in the last two weeks.

Rafters who have been interviewed recently in Miami have told el Nuevo Herald that an increasing number of Cuban migrants are leaving the island because they fear that the Cuban Adjustment Act is going to be abolished.

Under the wet-foot/dry-foot policy, a result of the Cuban Adjustment Act, Cuban migrants who arrive on U.S. soil are allowed to stay while those intercepted at sea are generally returned home.

Speculation has been growing about the possible end of the Cuban Adjustment Act since President Barack Obama in December 2014 ordered the restoration of U.S. relations with Cuba.

The Border Patrol confirmed Friday’s Cuban migrant arrival in the Florida Keys, but gave no other details.

However, figures from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) show an increase in the number of Cuban migrants without visas showing up along the U.S.-Mexican border and at international airports.

Almost 41,000 Cuban migrants arrived at the border, South Florida beaches and international airport between Oct. 1, 2014 and Sept. 30, 2015. It was the largest number of Cuban migrants arriving in the United States in one year over the last decade.

In its report, Local 10 News said CBP officers took the 22 Cuban migrants into custody after they came ashore at about 10 a.m., three miles south of Rodriguez Key, just east of Key Largo.

The TV report quoted a witness as saying she spotted seven of the men climbing through the bushes, then gave them water and Gatorade. She added that the men told her they had spent three days without food or water on their small boat.

The Border Patrol said by email Friday that the men were being held at their Marathon station pending their release.