MIAMI (CBSMiami) — A Coast Guard Cutter remains at sea Monday, where it’s been since Friday with 21 Cuban migrants on board.
Many of the South Floridians who believe their loved ones are on that Coast Guard vessel have turned to the attorneys at the Democracy Movement for help.
They not only want to ensure those on board will not be sent back to Cuba, they also simply want verification that their relatives survived the journey and are with the Coast Guard.
“It’s so sad because you don’t know about him, nobody can tell you anything. And they know what happened with the people,” said Hildanys Rodriguez through tears. She became emotional when talking with CBS4’s Natalia Zea about the possible worst case scenario, involving her cousin Francis Alejo.
She knows he left Cuba on a homemade boat with friends, and prays he is one of the migrants picked up five miles off of Marathon Key Friday but at this point the Coast Guard is not naming names.
“Nobody wants to give information, please I ask if somebody can help,” said Rodriguez.
Compounding Rodriguez’s fear is the knowledge that relatives in South Florida have given the Democracy Movement 38 names of those believed to have left Cuba at the same time. But the Coast Guard found only 21.
Two were found in the water near the American Shoal Lighthouse. Nineteen others made it to the lighthouse itself.
“We’re talking about persons. It’s so really hard. It’s so hard to not know what happened to your family,” said Rodriguez.
Yamilia Carril also hopes her nephew Carlos Barrios was one of the 19 migrants who swam to the federally-owned lighthouse, and are awaiting word from the federal government, whether this counts as U.S. land, under the Wet-Foot, Dry-Foot policy.
“I’m very nervous with my nephew,” she told Zea.
Cuban exile activist Ramon Saul Sanchez says the lighthouse is clearly part of the United States.
“The lighthouse is anchored in the platform of U.S. territory. It is in U.S. waters,” said Sanchez.
Sanchez said the 10-year-old case involving the Cuban migrants who made it to the old 7-Mile-Bridge set a precedent to allow these Cubans to remain.
Legal experts say that the previous federal judge simply agreed to a settlement to allow those Cubans to be given visas, but that the judge never weighed in on whether the bridge was considered U.S. soil.
Many of the relatives went to the offices of South Florida members of Congress Monday to plead for help. Congressman Carlos Curbelo says this is in the administration’s hands.
“It’s the Coast Guard’s call, whatever they decide…but I think anyone who feels for these people would really like to see them get the opportunity to stay,” said Curbelo.
Carril cringes at the thought of the Coast Guard sending the migrants back to Cuba, after all they risked to make it the U.S. She says she is all her nephew has left.
“He lost his mother. many years, 10 years and I’m the only person here he has,” said Carril.
Late Monday, Curbelo’s office told the Democracy Movement activists they are working with the Coast Guard to speed up the process of identifying those on board that Cutter at sea.
As for what will happen to them, if the Coast Guard sends them back to Cuba, the activists say their attorneys are ready to file legal action in federal court to fight to allow them to stay in the United States.