Posted on Thu, Mar. 23, 2006
Unclear when and if returned Cuban migrants will come to U.S.
HAVANA - (AP) -- One of the Cuban migrants returned home after reaching
an abandoned bridge in the Florida Keys said Wednesday it remains
unclear when and if they will be able to go to the United States for good.
''We now have Cuban passports,'' Junior Blanco said when reached by
telephone in Matanzas, east of Havana. ``We must now wait for the (U.S.)
Interests Section to call us.''
Under a deal between a federal judge in Miami and the U.S. government,
14 of the 15 Cubans returned home in January will receive visas allowing
them to immigrate to the United States. The Cuban passports were a
necessary first step.
After obtaining the U.S. visas, the migrants must ask the Cuban
government to provide exit permits allowing them to leave the island.
Cuban authorities have not said if they will let the 14 leave.
The migrant group numbered 15, but one person will not immediately be
given a U.S. visa because of questions about that person's possible
criminal history, an advocate in Miami said the day the deal was announced.
Under the deal, the Cubans are to receive U.S. immigration papers within
10 days of U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno's approval of the
agreement. The agreement was approved March 15 and filed March 17.
In return, the U.S. government will drop its planned appeal of Moreno's
Feb. 28 ruling that the group was illegally returned to Cuba after
legitimately reaching U.S. shores.
The repatriation of the group by the U.S. Coast Guard caused a firestorm
of debate in South Florida's large Cuban exile community over U.S.
migration policies for Cuban migrants.
Under the United States' so-called ''wet foot/dry foot'' policy, most
Cubans who reach U.S. soil are allowed to remain, while those
intercepted at sea are generally returned home.
Federal officials had said the old bridge did not qualify as dry land
because parts are missing and it no longer connects to U.S. soil.