The recent spike in maritime migration from Cuba to South Florida shows no sign of slowing. Another group landed in the Florida Keys Monday morning.
The six men and two women arrived around 6:30 a.m. on a small fishing vessel in Duck Key, an island just north of the Middle Keys city of Marathon, the U.S. Border Patrol said.
Border Patrol spokesman Adam Hoffner said none in the group required serious medical attention.
The people told Border Patrol agents they spent two days at sea, Hoffner said. They will likely be sent back to Cuba aboard a Coast Guard cutter.
So far this fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, more Cubans have been stopped attempting the dangerous journey across the Florida Straits than at any time since fiscal year 2017, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. The federal government tracks migration by fiscal years.
In 2016, Cubans who wanted to leave their homeland left in large numbers because they sensed President Barack Obama was about to end the Cold War-era “wet foot, dry foot” policy that allowed those who set foot on U.S. soil to stay in the country. Those caught at sea were sent home.
Their hunch was correct. Obama, in one of his last foreign policy decisions before leaving office, ended wet foot, dry foot in January 2017.
And, after he did, the number of migration attempts plummeted. In fiscal year 2016, the Coast Guard stopped 5,396 Cubans at sea en route to Florida. By 2018, it was down to 313 people.
Last year, just 49 people were caught making the trip. This year, however, the Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, and Border Patrol have seen a sharp increase. The Coast Guard said last week that, with four months still left to go in this fiscal year, it had already stopped more than 400 people at sea.
Experts on Cuba say several factors are contributing to an increased willingness for people to risk their lives to come to the U.S., despite knowing they’ll be sent home if caught at sea or on land. The main reasons are deteriorating economic conditions, and a crackdown on critics of the Communist regime running the island nation.
Some of these recent journeys have ended in tragedy.
Late last month, two people were found dead south of Key West out of a party of 20 people who all sailed across the Straits on the same vessel. Ten others from the boat were never found after a three-day search and are presumed dead.