Another group of Cuban migrants made it to shore Tuesday in the Florida Keys, making a total of 60 people who arrived in five separate trips since Thursday.
About 6 a.m. Tuesday, seven men and two women landed at Travel Town Trailer at mile marker 96.4 of U.S. 1 in Key Largo. Jeff Stalnaker, a U.S. Border Patrol supervisory agent in Marathon, says the surge may be "beneficial weather conditions" but it also could be a growing fear among Cubans that the wet-foot, dry-foot policy will soon go away.
Under that policy, Cuban migrants who make U.S. landfall can stay and are eligible for some welfare benefits while they await action before an immigration judge. But in recent months, U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who represents the Keys, and Sen. Marco Rubio — both the sons of Cuban immigrants — have introduced legislation in Congress that would cut back those benefits.
In April, there were 714 "migrant attempts at sea" through the Florida Straits, said U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Comdr. Gabe Somma from the agency's public affairs office in Miami. The same month last year, there were 379, he said.
And in the 2015 fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, there were 4,473 such attempts. Since this past Oct. 1, there have already been 3,526, he said.
"And we're only at the halfway point of the year and we have the busiest five months coming," Somma said. "We're on track to surpass last year."
Monday, nine Cuban migrants landed in Islamorada. Friday in Tavernier, 12 migrants arrived on a sailboat and seven more landed on a small island off Geiger Key in the Lower Keys. Thursday, 23 Cubans arrived at Smathers Beach in Key West.
The Border Patrol and Coast Guard both stress that the trip in rustic vessels across the Florida Straits is risky and shouldn't be made because they put lives in danger.