News Americas, MIAMI, FL, Weds. Sept. 23, 2015: In the same month that Pope Francis is making history with a Cuba and US visit, over 200 Cubans seeking to illegally enter the United States have been sent packing.
The US Coast Guard removed 237 back to Cuba this month alone, according to a News Americas Now analysis of repatriation figures.
The largest number – a whopping 121 – was sent back on September 22nd. These repatriations were a result of nine separate interdictions at sea in the south Florida Straits, the Coast Guard said.
Another 64 were sent back on September 8th to Bahia de Cabañas while 52 more were sent back on September 9th.
The migrants were illegally trying to enter the United States on unseaworthy vessels commonly referred to as “rustics” or “chugs.”
“Despite the recent steps to begin normalizing ties with Cuba, the Coast Guard’s missions and operations in the southeast remain unchanged,” Capt. Mark Fedor, Coast Guard 7th District chief of response commented. “Our immigration policies remain the same, and we continue to strongly discourage those attempting to illegally enter the country by taking to the sea. There are legal ways to enter this country and this is not it.”
Cubans benefit from a ‘wet foot, dry land’ immigration policy but it does not apply if they are caught at sea.
The Pope, who arrived in the US yesterday on a historic visit, tweeted hours after his arrival: “Thank you to the Cuban people! Thank you from my heart!”
He is expected to raise improved Cuba relations and immigration when he meets with President Obama and address the US Congress today.