Cubans stranded for 33 days are already detained in the US

Three Cuban castaways who survived 33 days by drinking coconut water and eating crustaceans and rats on an uninhabited islet in South Florida were in the custody of immigration authorities, and legal experts believe they could be allowed to remain in the United States under current federal policies. .

A Coast Guard helicopter this week detected two men and a woman, whom it rescued in baskets from a rocky cliff on Cayo Anguila, a small island in the Bahamas near Cuba.

The three people were airlifted to a hospital in Key West, and on Wednesday the Border Patrol took them to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center in Pompano Beach, Florida. Authorities said the Cubans had no serious injuries.

The Associated Press asked to interview the survivors, but immigration and Coast Guard authorities did not accept interviews or reveal their identities.

“They will receive full medical care from the moment they arrive and throughout their stay,” said Nestor Yglesias, an ICE spokesman. “The three individuals will have access to all legal processes available to them in accordance with the laws of the United States.”

As their names have not been released, it is unknown who their lawyers are. According to lawyers who are familiar with the Cuban Adjustment Law – which has practically guaranteed Cubans a path to legal residence and ultimately to naturalization – these people could be allowed to stay for humanitarian reasons.

As the Coast Guard brought them to the mainland, the three people could benefit from that law, which dates back 55 years and allows Cubans to apply for permanent legal residence one year after arrival and to be released, according to the lawyers.

“Sooner or later ICE will have to release these people. They didn’t come here illegally, ”said Lorenzo Palomares, an immigration attorney.

The Coast Guard did not respond to a request for clarification on what considerations were made before the group was airlifted to the United States.

It is unknown whether those people were originally headed for the United States or simply lost at sea, and the Coast Guard has said it only focused on rescuing them. The coast guard routinely watches the rocky, uninhabited islet for stranded migrants trying to reach the United States.

Coast Guard pilot Lt. Riley Beecher said during a routine mission Monday they saw what looked like flags waving between what is usually brown and light green topography.

“I thought, ‘Let’s take a closer look.’ I’ve never seen anything on that island, ”Beecher said. “Then I saw two people desperately waving their hands in an attempt to get us down.”

The crew threw fresh water and a radio at them before another crew brought them additional supplies on the same Monday, and they were rescued on Tuesday. The Coast Guard said the three said they drank coconut water to stay hydrated and ate rats and conch shellfish.

David Abraham, a professor of immigration and naturalization law at the University of Miami Law School, said the status of migrants could fall into limbo because it is unclear whether they will be deemed to have been detained at sea.

Abraham said it will be interesting to see how the administration of President Joe Biden will handle the case, taking into account that former Democratic President Barack Obama, when he thawed relations with Cuba, put an end to the policy of “dry feet, wet feet” with the that any Cuban who stepped on US territory was considered to have automatically arrived legally.

From that moment, the authorities could already reject Cuban migrants who tried to enter the country illegally, even after they stepped onto the mainland, although many continued to arrive and request protection based on asylum laws.

Republican President Donald Trump reversed the Obama thaw and reinstated economic sanctions on Cuba, but not the “dry feet, wet feet” policy, and his administration adopted a stricter stance on asylum applications.

Some Cubans have spent months in ICE detention centers without obtaining the parole that would allow them to apply for residency in one year.

“This could be an opportunity for the Biden government,” Abraham declared.

“The Trump administration, as part of its generalized heavy hand, did not respect this exception for Cubans. In the past, ICE would no doubt have released these people, granted them parole. It would be interesting to see if they do now. “