Florida Keys

With calmer seas, 42 Cuban migrants make it to the Keys

This is the boat that took 12 migrants from Cuba to Tavernier at the Harry Harris Park shore.
This is the boat that took 12 migrants from Cuba to Tavernier at the Harry Harris Park shore.

With the calming seas this time of year, more migrants are trying to make it across the Florida Straits from Cuba.

On Friday, 19 more arrived on Keys shores. Twelve men landed their homemade sailboat at 4 a.m. at Harry Harris Park in Tavernier around mile marker 92.5 oceanside, and seven others landed around 11 a.m. on an island off Geiger Key in the Lower Keys. They followed a Thursday landing about 2 a.m. at Smathers Beach in Key West of 21 Cuban men and two women.

“During the calm season and with the weather patterns” of the summer, more migrant trips are expected, U.S. Border Patrol Supervisory Agent Adam Hoffner said.

He said that with the U.S.-Cuba rapprochement after a half century of having no diplomatic ties, some Cubans fear that the wet-foot, dry-foot policy allowing Cubans who make it to American soil to stay will go away. That's driving many to try to make it across 90 miles of sea.

Hoffner said that the perilous journey is a bad idea.

“Smuggling organizations oftentimes put these migrants in perilous situations,” he said.

Early Friday, the 12 who landed in Tavernier were being interviewed at the Border Patrol's Marathon office. Hoffner said this wasn't necessarily a case of smuggling.

“They made a long journey in that sailboat,” he said. “They had been traveling at sea for approximately five days on that rustic vessel. They'll go through their processing, go before an immigration judge.”

Jo Holcombe, 71, who lives across the street from Harry Harris Park, was awakened by her dogs, who “kept barking.” She said the migrants were under a light pole in the park and her husband Will called 911.

Deputies from the Monroe County Sheriff's Office, firefighters and an ambulance crew arrived and gave them water, Jo Holcombe said.

“They were still standing under the light pole when I went back to bed,” she said.

They were in good health and had no medical emergencies, Hoffner said. The ones who landed in Key West were at sea for three days.