More Cuban Migrants Making Dangerous Journey Across The Florida Straits

Every year since 1960 as the waters calm over the summer, Cuban migrants take to the sea for a dangerous journey across the Florida Straits in an effort to escape the oppressive Castro regime and its failure of a socialist economy.

Video Transcript

LAUREN PASTRANA: Migrants coming to Florida isn't something new, but the rise in attempts are. Hundreds of Cuban migrants have been stopped from entering the US this year.

ELIOTT RODRIGUEZ: Yeah at least five times more than in 2020 CBS4's Hank Tester has a look at why we're seeing the big increase.

HANK TESTER: Hurricane season rolls around every year. And pretty much every year since 1960 with the Florida straits waters calm, it's rafter season. Cuban migrants taking to the water, doing their best to get out of Cuba. Escaping the Castro regime, oppression, and the classic failure of a socialist economy.

RAMON SAUL SANCHEZ: I should have said to you when you called me to interview. Hey Hank, why don't you get the interview that we did 20 years ago? I don't think it was-- and just replay it, because that's exactly the same thing unfortunately.

HANK TESTER: Since October of last year, the US Coast Guard intercepted nearly 300 Cuban migrants. That's about five times more migrants than in the fiscal year 2020.

RAMON SAUL SANCHEZ: What's driven migration over the past half century with regards to Cuba are two factors. One is obviously the Cuban nightmare created by the Castro brothers combined with a perception of weakness of occupants in the White House that are seeking unilateral concessions with Havana.

HANK TESTER: The Obama administration extended a hand to Cuba, opened a US Embassy, ended the wet foot dry foot policy, relaxed travel restrictions. Cruise ships from the US sailed into Havana. Then the Trump administration reined in that policy, ended the cruise ships, tightened the screws economically. Now with Joe Biden in the White House promising to engage with Cuba, the Cuban migrants are making more dangerous life threatening runs towards Florida.

JOHN SUAREZ: I see more coming until the Biden administration-- they can do it privately or do it publicly-- takes a strong stand with Havana.

HANK TESTER: And they continue to come. These stunning images off Key Biscayne, a dash into the US.

JOHN SUAREZ: The Cubans are obviously going to come just like Mexicans come, and other groups that don't have a status. Because even without a status, you can make a better life here than you can in Mexico and definitely better than you can make in Cuba.

HANK TESTER: The motivation that drives Cuban migrants has not changed over the years.

RAMON SAUL SANCHEZ: The disastrous economy and the worst thing is losing hope. I think that's what the regime has achieved in these 62 years. It has killed the hope-- the hopes of the Cuban citizens. And now they don't feel that they can live with dignity in their own homeland.

HANK TESTER: How many have died attempting to make the crossing? That's a question that haunts Ramon Saul Sanchez and John Suarez. Their consistent message to the Cuban people, don't do it. Too dangerous. Just recently off Key West, 10 missing. Two bodies and eight rescued. I'm Hank Tester, CBS4 News.