The U.S. Coast Guard announced the return of 27 Cuban refugees to the communist country on Tuesday, caught attempting to navigate to Florida on two separate vessels.
The slightly over two dozen people are believed to be the first large group of balseros, or rafters, caught attempting to enter the United States in this manner since the July 11 protests. The Coast Guard did not provide the identity of those repatriated. In a statement, the Coast Guard confirmed that it had intercepted “a 21-foot vessel with 22 people aboard” on Friday and since repatriated those on board.
On Saturday, Coast Guard officials identified a “makeshift raft with five people aboard,” both vessels nearing Key West, Florida. All individuals repatriated were reported “in good health.” The White House has taken a stern tone against Cuban refugees seeking to enter Florida and anyone seeking to help them.
“The time is never right to attempt migration by sea. To those who risk their lives doing so, this risk is not worth taking,” Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas warned shortly after the July 11 anti-communist protests. “Allow me to be clear: If you take to the sea, you will not come to the United States.”
The Coast Guard has also turned its warnings against American citizens who may encounter Cubans on the high seas, warning that anyone helping a Cuban refugee would “violate U.S. immigration laws” and could face up to five years in prison. “Vessels and persons illegally entering Cuban territorial waters … without the required permit may be subject to seizure of their vessel, civil and criminal penalties up to $25,000 per day, and 10 years in prison,” the Coast Guard asserted in a statement following the organization of a support flotilla to the Straits of Florida by Cuban-Americans.
“People who violate U.S. immigration laws and illegally bring foreign nationals into the country or who attempt to do so may be subject to arrest, vessel forfeiture, civil and criminal fines up to $250,000 per day, and five years in prison.”
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: DESERET.COM
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