A group of Cuban migrants landed in Key West on Sunday morning, where they were greeted by police.
It’s a sight that has become familiar in the Florida Keys, as the number of people willing to make the dangerous journey from Cuba to South Florida has increased dramatically. Experts say this is due to deteriorating economic and political conditions within the island nation, including a worsening COVID-19 situation.
This arrival was filmed by a Key West man who stumbled upon the scene near Smathers Beach on South Roosevelt Boulevard, across from the Key West International Airport.
There were 17 people who made it to Key West on a migrant ship commonly known as a chug, WLRN reported. They will probably be sent back to Cuba by the coast guard.
Warren Leamard, of Key West, posted the video he made to Facebook, where it was shared widely.
Video shows the group encountered by police, who helped pull each person over the dike, at sunrise.
Leamard, owner of Destination Catering and Events, was working early Sunday. He was returning from the food delivery at around 7:20 a.m. when he spotted a police car on the sidewalk of South Roosevelt.
Then he saw a line of people wading through the ocean on their way to land.
“That’s when I got out of my vehicle and realized that was what was happening,” Leamard said. “I saw people with floats and backpacks and things. It really struck me, being an immigrant from Jamaica. I really understood what these people went through to come here.
In the video, Leamard points out that the ship used by the migrants is floating in the distance.
Leamard examined the reasons why Cubans take great risks crossing the Strait of Florida in an attempt to reach the United States.
“To fall on this body of water I’m not sure where the current is going to take you and to come just on a hope and a prayer,” Leamard said. “You can tell they are really going through hardships and coming here to make a better life for themselves. It’s just my personal belief.
Leamard, 54, arrived in the United States in 1985.
“I went through the immigration process,” he said. “The whole process: work permit, green card, citizenship,” he said. “I started out as a cleaner and dishwasher. Now I own my own restaurant business. America has so much to give. I’m very grateful.”
Sea migration from Cuba has increased this year, with the Coast Guard reporting a week ago that their crews arrested 838 people during the exercise they use, which runs from October to October.
In 2020, the number was 49.
The 17 people who arrived in Key West on Sunday were treated to breakfast, brought by the wife of a police officer, according to WLRN.
On Thursday, 13 Cuban migrants landed in Big Pine Key in the Lower Keys on a homemade wooden boat, the border patrol said. They were placed in federal custody.
On September 26, the coast guard rescued nine Cubans who were spotted on a “rustic ship” about 54 miles southwest of the Marquesas Keys, the agency reported. The group was returned to Cuba on October 1.
Sea migration from Cuba to South Florida had declined in the years after then-President Barack Obama ended the decades-old “wet feet, dry feet” policy in early 2017 .
This policy allowed those who set foot on American soil to stay in the country and apply for permanent residence after one year. Those captured at sea were returned.
Those captured at sea were returned to Cuba. Now, all Cubans who attempt to enter the United States without a visa are deported.
This story was originally published 10 October 2021 13:27.