Illegal entry: Two dozen Cubans caught on Florida pleasure boat
By IBI Magazine
Twenty-eight Cubans trying to illegally enter the US were arrested last weekend, after a Florida deputy sheriff stopped a smuggler's boat for a routine inspection. The incident is the latest in the increased use of pleasure boats to smuggle Cubans into the US.
According to a story in the Palm Beach Post, a marine patrol deputy stopped a 1988 46ft (14m) Sea Ray near St Lucie Inlet State Park in the St Lucie River after midnight. When the deputy sheriff tried to board the boat, it sped off.
Ruben Hernandez, the owner of the boat, ran for about a mile before stopping at a dock. About two dozen of the people on board tried to get off the boat and make it to shore.
Under US policy, known as "wet foot, dry foot", Cuban refugees who touch US soil before they are captured are allowed to stay in the country. But those who are caught at sea are returned.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials took into custody 17 men, five women and one boy who tried to make it to shore. Five Cubans who stayed on the boat were turned over to the US Coast Guard and will be returned to Cuba.
The incident is part of a growing trend of smugglers using large cruisers or high-speed powerboats to move Cubans into Florida. Local law authorities have reported a rash of boat thefts in the last year, which they attribute to the rise in human trafficking. Smugglers, according to news reports, charge Cubans tens of thousands of dollars for passage to the US.
Hernandez was charged with resisting an officer with violence, and reckless operation of a vessel. He will also face charges from immigration officials.
(23 July 2008)
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