Human traffickers were caught by federal authorities carrying more than 30 migrants from Cuba early Sunday morning off northern Key Largo.
A law enforcement source says the people were brought in on a 40-foot speed boat about 500 yards off the gated Ocean Reef community. The go-fast boat was intercepted by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations crew.
Five people with the migrant group were able to escape into the mangroves, but U.S. Border Patrol agents caught them, Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Adam Hoffner said.
“Of the five that absconded, all five have been taken into custody,” Hoffner said.
Hoffner also said one person agents determined to be one of the smugglers was also caught.
This is the first large group of migrants to attempt a landing in the United States since the Obama administration ended the so-called “wet-foot, dry-foot” immigration policy in January.
The policy stipulated that most Cubans caught at sea trying to reach the United States would be sent back to the island nation 90 miles south of Key West. Those who made it to shore, however, could stay and apply for permanent residence after a year.
The justification for the Cold-War-era policy — added to the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act in 1995 — came into question after the Obama administration and the Castro regime reestablished diplomatic ties in 2015.