MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) – Six Cuban migrants who landed at South Pointe Park in South Beach Monday morning will be released from Border Patrol custody, processed by Church World Services and released to begin new lives in the United States.READ MORE: Florida House To Take Up Transgender Athlete Ban
The men received a very warm welcome from residents and tourists alike when they landed.
“I just felt this urge to shake one of their hands and say welcome,” said Maria Ashe.
Tourist Mercedes Martin also jumped into action to help them.
“They were just very grateful and some started asking for help. People brought them water, started calling their families.”
The men onboard told those who greeted them that they had spent 11 days in the ocean, had suffered through storms, made stops in Anguilla and the Bahamas and had left initially in two rafts.
“One of the rafts they exchanged for food on the way and then the ones from the smaller rafts when into this one which is the one that made it,” Dr. Octavio Pino recalled.READ MORE: Florida Senate Committee Advances 'Anti-Riot' Measure
By air, and on the ground, the men’s high spirits were evident. Waving energetically and giving two thumbs up as they walked into the Miami Beach Police station. Also thankful they made it safe, family members who got the call that they had arrived on American soil.
For Kimberly Garcia whose uncle Zedry was on that boat, the thought of seeing him again brings tears to her eyes.
“It’s been 25 years I don’t see him. And I grew up with him. He’s family,” she told CBS4’s Natalia Zea.
Garcia made the same trip when she was just 11.
“I know how that feels, getting into the ocean, you don’t know what’s going to happen to you.”
She believes her uncle’s choice to leave Cuba, leaving behind four children, will prove to be worth the risk.MORE NEWS: Miami Weather: Isolated Thunderstorms Expected Saturday Evening
“They can be better. He can help them from here,” she said.