Thursday, June 29, 2006

Cuban migrants anxious to leave island

Wednesday, June 28, 2006 · Last updated 6:16 p.m. PT

Cuban migrants anxious to leave island


HAVANA -- One of 15 Cuban migrants sent home after reaching an abandoned
bridge in the Florida Keys said Wednesday the group is growing desperate
after three months awaiting final Cuban government approval to leave for

The migrants were returned to Cuba in January. But a deal allowing 14 of
them to emigrate permanently was reached in March between U.S. District
Judge Frederic Moreno in Miami and the U.S. government, which had argued
that the U.S. Coast Guard acted correctly in sending the Cubans back.
Now all they lack is the so-called "white card," an exit permit Cubans
must receive from the communist government to leave the island.

"All of us are desperate, they haven't answered us," Elizabeth Hernandez
told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from a small town in
Matanzas Province nearly 100 miles east of Havana.

Fourteen of the original 15 have humanitarian visas from the American
government to emigrate to the United States. U.S. officials did not give
a visa to the 15th, reportedly for giving them false statements.

The migrants have quit their jobs as instructed by Cuban authorities in
preparation to leave for the United States.

Under the United States' "wet foot/dry foot" policy, most Cubans who
reach U.S. soil are allowed to remain, while those intercepted at sea
are generally sent home.

U.S. Coast Guard officials determined the old bridge in the Florida Keys
did not qualify as dry land because parts are missing and it no longer
connects to U.S. soil.

But the repatriations caused an uproar in South Florida's large Cuban
exile community.

The Cuban government has never publicly commented on the details of the
case. However, when asked about the migrants earlier this year, National
Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon criticized U.S. immigration policies
that he said encourage Cubans to make the risky sea journey.

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