Tags: Immigration | Coast Guard | migrants | Florida Straits | Cuba

Coast Guard: Migrant Crossings in Fla. Straits At 5-Year High

By    |   Thursday, 30 Oct 2014 05:06 PM

The U.S. Coast Guard is on the front lines of a new pathway for illegal immigration, the Florida Straits, where in fiscal year 2014, migrant crossings hit the highest number in five years, CNN reports.

The immigrants ride makeshift water vessels, navigating often deadly waters between the Florida Keys and Cuba where their rafts and boats are often intercepted. Some are snagged in the water, clinging to a flotilla of objects in a desperate attempt to make it to land.

A total of 10,126 migrants sought this path to the United States, most from Cuba or Haiti, a 3,000-person increase over 2013, CNN said, noting that many who are apprehended and sent home have tried over and over again to find freedom on U.S. shores.

"Most of it is economic," said Coast Guard Lt. Kirk Fistrick, who commands the Norvell, a cutter ship that frequently picks up the castaways and returns them home.

"They're looking for a better way of life," Fistick said, adding that most are highly determined, in spite of the dangers. "There are people that have done this dozens of times," he added.

The migrants often put their lives on the line for a better life, and the Coast Guard stays busy fishing many out of sinking vessels or from open waters in dangerous rescue attempts.

As recently as Monday, officials were looking for two Cuban migrants who were missing after 11 others were rescued off Miami's Sand Key on Sunday night, Miami's Local 10 News reported.

The group had spent eight days and nights on a makeshift raft, a journey one person said was "rough." By Day 4, one said, a storm tipped their craft and they lost food and water.

Three who made it to shore, swimming on their own to freedom, were being processed and helped by a local church charity as they seek asylum in the U.S. fleeing the poverty and political environment in Cuba.

Another group of 33 was rescued off shore near Boca Raton this week, many jumping into the sea from a damaged and overloaded rowboat, according to The New York Times, which noted "not since a rafter crisis flooded the seas 20 years ago has Florida seen so many unseaworthy crafts carrying Cubans."

U.S. rules say those migrants who make landfall may stay in the country, but those who are rescued on water must be returned, the Times said.

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The U.S. Coast Guard is on the front lines of a new pathway for illegal immigration, the Florida Straits, where in fiscal year 2014, migrant crossings hit the highest number in five years, CNN reports.
Coast Guard, migrants, Florida Straits, Cuba
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2014-06-30
Thursday, 30 Oct 2014 05:06 PM
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