Tag Archives: Cuban rafters

Wounded rafters say shooters in Cuba tried to steal boat

Yaser Cabrera Romero, one of the rafters who arrived from Cuba on Saturday
Yaser Cabrera Romero, one of the rafters who arrived from Cuba on Saturday

The Miami Herald

Shortly before sailing from Cuba, 26 Cubans who were about to board a raft were set upon by a group of criminals who opened fire with a gun and wounded seven, including a pregnant woman, all in a failed attempt to steal their makeshift boat, two of the wounded migrants said upon arriving in Miami Sunday afternoon.

“We really don’t know who shot us, but we think it was criminals who wanted to steal the raft,” said Yaser Cabrera Romero, one of the migrants interviewed after arriving at the Doral office of Church World Service, an agency that helps refugees and immigrants resettle in the United States. “We were just arriving in a vehicle that took us to the raft, and while we were still on shore, four people showed up and yelled: ‘Stay where you are. The boat is ours!’ ”

Rather than surrendering, the 26 migrants confronted the criminals, one of whom then pulled out a gun — but the alleged thugs ultimately fled after wounding seven rafters. Though wounded, the rafters decided to continue with their plan. They say they boarded the raft in the area of ​​Matanzas, east of Havana, and sailed at 3 a.m. Saturday. They traveled for nine hours to the outskirts of Key West, where they were intercepted by the Coast Guard from United States.

“We sailed for nine hours, injured and bleeding,” Cabrera Romero said.

The dramatic story told by Cabrera Romero and another rafter, Jorge Luis Escalona, ​​who were transported to Miami from Key West after being released by the hospital, marked the first time that participants in the incident provided a detailed explanation of the initial mystery that surrounded the case.

Six of the rafters whose injuries were considered serious were taken to a hospital near Key West. The wounded seventh rafter was transferred with the other remaining 19 migrants to a Coast Guard cutter likely to be returned to Cuba, unless one or more claim fear of persecution if returned, in which case they would be taken to the naval base at Guantánamo to be processed for resettlement in a third country.

The case sparked widespread interest because seven of the migrants were wounded by gunfire, an unusual occurrence, and because U.S. authorities did not explain the circumstances surrounding the incident. The case raised suspicions about how the seven rafters came to be shot. Among the theories was that the migrants may have wounded themselves to force the Coast Guard to bring them ashore.

When the Coast Guard finds sick rafters, they are brought ashore to receive medical care. This allows the migrants transported ashore to stay in the U.S and apply for permanent residence after more than a year under the Cuban Adjustment Act. Generally, Cuban migrants who are intercepted at sea are returned to Cuba under the wet-foot/dry-foot policy.

But Cabrera Romero and Escalona, ​​the other rafter interviewed in Doral, said the incident was an attempted robbery.

“We confronted them and one drew a gun,” Escalona said. “It was very dark, and we think they were criminals who wanted to steal our raft.”

Escalona, ​​a nephew of his who was not interviewed and Cabrera Romero showed their wounds to journalists.

Escalona had a wound on his side, his nephew on the shoulder and Cabrera Romero in the abdomen. The three said the pregnant woman had been shot in the back and that the injured rafter who was not brought ashore had a bullet in the foot. It is not known where the remaining two rafters were injured. The woman and another rafter were still hospitalized, Cabrera Romero and Escalona said.

Cabrera Romero said doctors told him that his wound was not life-threatening but that the bullet was still inside his body.

“They gave me morphine, but I have still have the bullet inside and it hurts a lot,” Cabrera Romero said. “I’ve had that bullet in me for more than 24 hours.”

The Coast Guard issued a statement on Sunday morning: “The U.S. Coast Guard interdicted 26 Cuban migrants aboard a make-shift raft south of Key West, Florida, Saturday afternoon. Seven of the 26 migrants had gunshot wounds sustained prior to the interdiction. The most critical, six, were medevaced to a local area hospital. The remaining 20 migrants will likely be returned to their country of origin. The U.S. Coast Guard works hard to ensure the safety of migrants on our cutters after an interdiction and strongly discourages attempts to illegally enter the country by taking to the sea. These trips are extremely dangerous and could lead to loss of life.”

According to KeysInfoNet, the six wounded rafters brought ashore were taken to the Lower Keys Medical Center on Stock Island. Coast Guard spokesmen said the Border Patrol was in charge of the six Cubans who were taken to the hospital.

Frank Miller, a Border Patrol spokesman, said four were released to the agency that generally handles their paperwork. He had no information on the other two.

Miller declined to provide more details because the case is part of an “ongoing investigation.”

Normally, Cuban rafters who reach shore and have not been wounded by gunfire are retained by the Border Patrol for a few hours, or at most a day, for background checks and to process their parole documents to remain in the country.

The Coast Guard reported last week that nine Cubans had died at sea during a voyage to South Florida, according to Cuban migrants who were rescued by a cruise ship near Marco Island, off the west coast of Florida. The 18 survivors, who were taken to Cozumel, Mexico, said they had tossed the bodies into the sea, according to the Coast Guard.

Also, in separate incidents last week, 58 Cuban migrants intercepted at sea on several vessels were repatriated.

According to Coast Guard figures, so far this fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, 2,562 Cubans have been intercepted, sighted or have landed in Florida.

In fiscal year 2015, about 4,476 Cuban migrants were intercepted, spotted or arrived by sea, the largest number in more than seven years.

According to the Coast Guard, uncertainty about a possible change in U.S. immigration policy with Cuba has led to a larger number of Cuban immigrants since President Barack Obama in December 2014 ordered the restoration of relations with the island.

26 rafters intercepted by Coast Guard, seven of them had been shot

balserosheridos

The Miami Herald

It’s a mystery on the sea.

When a U.S. Coast Guard crew encountered a makeshift raft just south of Key West on Saturday, they found 26 Cuban migrants aboard — and seven had been shot.

Six had critical wounds and were taken to a hospital on Stock Island. A seventh wounded migrant was transferred with the remaining 19 to a Coast Guard cutter to await likely repatriation to Cuba, unless one or more claim fear of persecution if returned. If that happens, they would then be taken to the Guantánamo naval base to be processed for possible resettlement in a third country.

But who shot them?

Were they injured as they left Cuba? Did they wound themselves in order to get to a U.S. hospital on land? Did they fight among themselves or with a smuggler? Was it an accident?

Authorities aren’t saying much.

When the Coast Guard finds Cuban rafters injured or sick, they bring them ashore to receive medical care. That usually allows them to stay in the United States and apply for permanent residence after more than a year in the country under the Cuban Adjustment Act. Generally, Cuban rafters intercepted at sea are returned to Cuba under the wet foot/dry foot policy.

The Coast Guard issued a statement on Sunday morning recounting the number of migrants found and how many had gunshot wounds.

According to KeysInfoNet, the six were taken to the Lower Keys Medical Center on Stock Island. Coast Guard spokesmen said the Border Patrol was in charge of the six Cubans who were taken to the hospital.

Frank Miller, a Border Patrol spokesman, said four were released to the agency that generally handles their paperwork. He had no information on whether the other two remained in Border Patrol custody.

Miller declined to provide more details because the case is part of a “ongoing investigation.”

Normally, Cuban rafters who reach shore and have not been wounded by gunfire are retained by the Border Patrol for a few hours or at most a day for background checks and to process their parole documents to remain in the country.

The Coast Guard reported last week that nine Cubans had died at sea during a voyage to South Florida, according to Cuban migrants who were rescued by a cruise ship near Marco Island, off the west coast of Florida. The 18 survivors, who were taken to Cozumel, Mexico, said they had tossed the bodies into the sea, according to the Coast Guard.

Also, in separate incidents last week, 58 Cuban migrants intercepted at sea on several vessels were repatriated.

According to Coast Guard figures, so far this fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, 2,562 Cubans have been intercepted, sighted or have landed in Florida, 269 of them during February.

In fiscal year 2015, about 4,476 Cuban migrants were intercepted, spotted or arrived by sea, the largest number in more than seven years.

According to the Coast Guard, uncertainty about a possible change in U.S. immigration policy Cuba has led to a larger number of Cuban immigrants since President Barack Obama ordered the restoration of relations with Cuba it began the process of normalization in December 2014.

Two days before Obama goes to his Cuba vacation, nine rafters die trying to escape

Royal Caribbean cruise ship stops to rescue eight Cuban refugees adrift in the Caribbean as shocked passengers look on

Daily Mail

The refugees were floating on a row boat attached to barrels
    They were spotted just before the sun rose on Sunday morning  
    They were taken aboard the Independence of the Seas ship until the US Coast Guard arrived to pick them up
    One passenger said at first people thought the refugees were pirates

rafters1123
Eight refugees fleeing from Cuba were rescued by a Royal Caribbean cruise ship after they were spotted out at sea just before the sun came up on Sunday morning.

The refugees were floating on a row boat that appeared to be attached to barrels, with backpacks and paddles inside.

They were taken aboard the cruise ship aptly-titled Independence of the Seas until the US Coast Guard arrived and picked them up.

Passenger Mark Sims said that at first others believed the refugees were pirates trying to get on the ship.

There were more than 4,000 passengers and 1,500 crew members on board at the time.

This isn’t the first time a Royal Caribbean ship picked up Cuban refugees.

Cubans keep coming, they don’t trust the deal between Obama and Raul Castro

Cuban migrants are seen on a raft before being rescued by members of Mexico's Navy (SEMAR) in Progreso, in the state of Yucatan

More than 4,000 Cuban migrants have tried to enter the U.S. by sea since last October, even as tensions eased between the two countries. The figure, announced by the U.S. Coast Guard this week, marks nearly a 300-person increase over the same period the previous year.
The release of figures followed an announcement that Coast Guard officials had returned 52 migrants to Cuba after intercepting vessels in the south Florida Straits. Cubans considering the trip reportedly fear that the U.S. may become more hostile to allowing Cuban migrants who reach land to stay in the country as a result of last year’s landmark deal improving relations between the U.S. and Cuba, according to the Associated Press.
“Coast Guard missions and operations in the Southeast remain unchanged. The Coast Guard strongly discourages attempts to illegally enter the country by taking to the sea,” said Capt. Mark Gordon, Coast Guard 7th District chief of response enforcement, in a press release. “These trips are incredibly dangerous.”

TIME

Calls to end so-called ‘wet-foot-dry-foot’ policy grow as ties between U.S., Cuba improve

Cuban rafters trying to leave the Hell that Castro has created for them

Calls are growing for the Obama administration to end the decades-long practice of allowing Cubans who make it onto U.S. soil to stay here.

The practice, which stems from the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act and is informally known as the “wet-foot-dry-foot” policy, allows Cubans who make it to the United States to remain her legally.
They can obtain permanent U.S. residency after a year and a day.
The policy has been controversial for a long time, drawing criticism from some who view it as preferential treatment. Haitian-American groups, for instance, often contrast how much harder it is for their compatriots to get legal residency in the United States.
Now that Cuba and the United States are re-establishing diplomatic relations and recently announced that embassies would be reopened in Havana and Washington, D.C., before the end of July, many argue that it’s time to repeal the Cuban Adjustment Act.
“The politics of the issue have evolved,” Marc R. Rosenblum, deputy director of the U.S. immigration policy program at the Migration Policy Institute, told Fox News Latino.
There also have been published reports about how some Cubans obtain refugee status – presumably because they fear persecution in their native homeland – yet regularly travel between the U.S. and the communist nation after obtaining legal residency here.
“People see certain Cubans abuse the Cuban Adjustment Act, and travel back and forth, taking advantage of that privileged status.”
The Obama administration, mindful of the emotionally-charged debate around the special program – Cuban exiles have pushed hard to keep it in place – quickly noted after announcing the push to normalize relations that the wet-foot-dry-foot policy would remain in place.
Remberto Perez, vice president of the Cuban American National Foundation, one of the nation’s most influential Cuban exile lobbying groups, says the re-establishment of diplomatic relations has not meant an end to the human rights abuses that have driven many to flee to the United States.
“It’s still a brutal dictatorship, and if people are risking their lives to escape the regime, we should give them asylum,” Perez, a New Jersey businessman, told FNL. “Cuba is just giving lip service and window-dressing. Cuba cannot be compared with Haiti. Cuba is a police state.”
Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Miami Republican and the son of Cuban exiles, has drafted legislation that seeks to modify the Cuban Adjustment Act.
Among other things, his measure requires people who want to stay in the United States via the Cuban Adjustment Act to prove they face political persecution.
It would also rescind the residency of refugees who return to Cuba before they complete the process of becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen.

Continue reading Calls to end so-called ‘wet-foot-dry-foot’ policy grow as ties between U.S., Cuba improve

Coast Guard, Cuban migrants continue deadly hide-and-seek

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.
“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.”
The steady hum of a Coast Guard aircraft flying low loops over these swift, dark blue waters broadcasts a distinct message to migrants: Nothing has changed.
The Coast Guard planes are equipped with sensors that pick out shapes on the water’s surface miles away. From a patrol altitude of about 1,500 feet, cruise ships look like smudges on the horizon and sailboats are white dots with long wakes.
A migrant vessel appears the size of a buoy. Pilots look for something suspicious: waves that don’t break quite right, a dark speck in a cloud’s shadow, the glint of something tossed overboard or the ripple of a blue tarp.
“I’ve seen two guys on a Styrofoam sheet with two backpacks,” Lt. Luke Zitzman said from the cockpit of a recent patrol.
Coast Guard crews will open their cargo doors to toss buckets containing water and food, sometimes their own lunches, down to migrants frantically signaling for help.
They’ve also watched migrants push away life jackets and inflatable rafts thrown down to keep them afloat in deep waters before a Coast Guard cutter arrives. If they can see a shoreline, many migrants will try to swim for it.
“That must be really frustrating, to see that’s freedom but not realize how far away that it really is,” said Lt. Hans de Groot, the pilot of a recent patrol.
Once picked up by the Coast Guard, migrants find themselves transferred from cutter to cutter before they return to Cuba.
Aboard the cutter Charles David Jr., crew members sometimes recognize faces among the roughly 900 migrants who have crossed the decks since 2013. A family with a 4-year-old girl has shown up twice, and other migrants have confessed to getting caught half a dozen times or more.
Although Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Beaudoin calls the migrants his guests, some can’t be pacified. Past guests have lashed out at crew, refused food and water or tried to hurt themselves, hoping to win a transfer to Florida. (That rarely works.)
“They’re humans; they’re trying to make a better life for themselves. They’re not just trying to come to the U.S. to freeload. We’ve had some that have been on board six, seven times, and there’s definitely desperation there,” said Boatswain 2nd Class Matthew Karas, watching over the migrants.
In their wake, the Coast Guard burns or sinks migrants’ rafts. Lately, Beaudoin has noticed many rafts primarily made from construction spray foam, enforced with rebar and wrapped in vinyl tarps. These won’t sink, and the Coast Guard rigs them with transmitters that alert other vessels to the obstacle in the water.
“You look at all the risks that they’re taking on those ventures and not being successful, and yet not being thwarted enough to say, ‘I’m not going to do it a 16th time,'” Beaudoin said, squinting into the sun’s glare off the water. “One can’t underestimate the power of the motivation of the migrant trying to enter the United States.”

Associated Press