Coast Guard continues deadly hide-and-seek with Cuban migrants
Published 9:23 am Friday, June 12, 2015
ABOVE THE FLORIDA STRAITS — With a shift in the relationship between Havana and Washington, many Cubans are now attempting a risky sea crossing out of fear that the U.S. will change its “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy allowing any Cuban reaching U.S. land to stay and pursue citizenship.
Without it, they’d be treated like other foreigners caught illegally in the country — ineligible for citizenship and subject to deportation.
The U.S. Coast Guard returns any Cuban migrants caught at sea to the communist island. Authorities have captured or intercepted more than 2,600 since Oct. 1, and that tally is expected to match or surpass last year’s total of nearly 4,000.
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“It’s fair to say that this is the ‘Wild West’ of the Coast Guard,” said Lt. Cmdr. Gabe Somma, spokesman for the Coast Guard’s Miami-based 7th District, which patrols the Florida Straits. “We’ve got drugs, we’ve got migrants and we’ve got search and rescue, and we’ve got an enormous area, approximately the size of the continental United States.”