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39 Cuban Migrants Come Ashore in S. Florida

June 18, 2008

By Erika Beras, The Miami Herald

Jun. 18–Human smugglers are getting more creative in their efforts, says Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Lazaro Guzman.

Take Wednesday morning.

About 2 a.m., a group of five Cuban migrants were found in Hollywood.

At 5 a.m., 29 Cuban migrants turned up in Sunny Isles Beach.

And just before 9 a.m., there were five at the Rickenbacker Causeway.

“It’s not unusual for smugglers to change their course,” Guzman said. “They were landing at Key Biscayne, but now we have a stronger presence there. Once we control Key Biscayne, they start popping up everywhere else.”

The group in Hollywood was found at Indiana Street and the boardwalk.

“That was a staged landing,” Guzman said. “These are people who have already been in the country a couple of days and then are told to go to the beach and pretend they just landed.”

The group had left from Santa Lucia Pinar del Rio.

Three hours later, a group of 29 Cuban migrants were found in Sunny Isles Beach, according to a supervisor at the U.S. Border Patrol.

In the group near State Road AIA and Northeast 158th Street were 19 men, eight women and two juveniles.

They were transported by Miami-Dade police, whom they flagged down when they landed.

The migrants told officials they had left Villa Clara, Cuba, on Thursday and spent several days at sea.

A boat was found beached nearby — a 33-foot Avanti. Three suspected smugglers ran off, officials said.

U.S. Border Patrol has the vessel and is inspecting it.

“These people do not look weathered. They tell us one story about how they came in a homemade boat,” Guzman said, “but once they are in a controlled environment, we take care of them, we offer them medical attention and they start recanting what they were saying.”

The migrants said family members paid $10,000 to have them brought to the United States.

On Tuesday, 12 migrants showed up on the Rickenbacker Causeway and 21 showed up at Bill Baggs State Park.

Under the United States’ wet-foot/dry-foot policy, Cuban migrants who make it to U.S. soil are generally allowed to stay, while those interdicted at sea are usually turned back.

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