MIAMI – Eight Cuban would-be immigrants were intercepted Tuesday by U.S. authorities off the coat of Miami, making a total of 59 islanders who have tried to reach the United States on rafts and flimsy boats over the past three days.
The Cubans were picked up close to Key Biscayne by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials, who will see to their repatriation.
The CBP has reported an increase in the number of such immigrants to the country, with more than 10,000 in January and February.
This Monday another 25 Cubans tried to land in the Florida Keys, as did another 26 last Saturday, of whom seven arrived suffering from bullet wounds after being attacked in Cuba by assailants trying to steal their raft.
According to U.S. authorities, the increase of Cuban immigrants stems from fears that renewed diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana will lead to the elimination of the Cuban Adjustment Act, which makes it easier to obtain U.S. residence.
The act gave rise to the “wet foot, dry foot” policy, under which Cubans who reach U.S. soil are allowed to remain and obtain permanent residence, while those intercepted at sea are almost always repatriated to the Communist-ruled island.
Of the group of 26 rafters who were intercepted last Saturday by the Coast Guard off Key West, seven were hospitalized in South Florida.
During the last fiscal year, from Oct. 1, 2014, to Sept. 30, 2015, more than 43,000 Cubans reached the United States, an increase of 77 percent over the same period the year before.