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6 Cubans Halted in Bid to Enter Florida Keys

May 16, 2003|From Associated Press

TAVERNIER, Fla. — The Coast Guard stopped six Cubans who tried to enter the Florida Keys in a small boat Thursday, plucking all six from the water, two after they were treading water for more than two hours, authorities said.

The immigrants were taken aboard a Coast Guard boat off Tavernier, about 75 miles south of Miami, said Petty Officer Anastasia Burns.

After receiving medical treatment, they will be questioned by a U.S. Border Patrol agent involved in the rescue to decide whether to send them back to Cuba or bring them ashore, said Border Patrol spokesman Keith Roberts.

Under the "wet foot, dry foot" policy, Cubans who reach U.S. shores are generally permitted to stay, while those caught at sea are sent back.

Also Thursday, two of three Cubans who swam ashore earlier this month were charged in Key West with assaulting Coast Guard members who were trying to rescue them.

The two, who swam ashore near Key Largo on May 6, are accused of threatening Coast Guard members with a knife and part of their boat's mast and face possible 20-year prison sentences.

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