Cubans Allowed Into U.S.

Migrantsfamily_2 The U.S. Coast Guard brought 28 Cuban migrants who had been detained off shore to Miami today so they can be material witnesses in an alleged smuggling case in which a woman suffered fatal head injuries during a high-speed chase to reach Florida. The migrants, who are to appear in Miami federal court this afternoon, will be allowed to stay under material witness warrants so they can testify directly against three men charged with the smuggling attempt that caused the 24-year-old woman's death. Their Miami-based family members, photographed here, had been lobbying for them to stay.

Cuba To Miami Via Honduras

The Herald's Nancy San Martin reports that a growing number of Cubans are choosing to flee to Honduras on smuggling boats and are then trekking north through Mexico and crossing the border on foot.

Families: We Never Paid For Smuggling

Migrantsfamily The Coast Guard says their family members were smuggled out of Cuba in a trip that turned deadly.

But these family members say they did not pay anyone to bring their relatives from Cuba this weekend. Amay Machado Gonzalez, 24, was apparently killed by being battered around on the boat when the Coast Guard gave chase to the suspected smuggling vessel.

I interviewed some of the family members Monday afternoon. Here's what they said:

   Rebeca Croes, the twin sister of one of the passengers, Morelia Croes, said her sister and several friends made a makeshift boat and tried to leave Cuba on it. But it started sinking outside Cuban waters. She said the men who are accused of smuggling happened to see the sinking boat and rescued them.

  "They did the work of the Coast Guard," Croes said of the accused smugglers. She said her family did not pay for her sister to get smuggled

out. "I don't even have furniture in my living room," Croes said in Spanish. "I sleep in the same bed as my daughter. It's not as like if I had enough money to pay someone."

  Croes' half sister, Laura Hernandez, also said no money exchanged hands. "No one was paid," she said.

   For Arturo Conde, news of the smuggling operation was terrifying at first. He said his daughter, Odalys Conde, was on the boat. When news broke of the smuggling, he heard an unidentified woman had been killed, but had to wait until much later in the day to learn the woman's name from news reports. It was not his daughter.

   "She's been wanting to leave Cuba for a long time," he said of his daughter, Odalys, 40, who he said was with her own two daughters on the boat. "If they send them back to Cuba, Fidel Castro will take her daughters away from her."

  Other relatives said the people who were aboard the smuggling boat were all friends and family and had been trying to leave Cuba for a long time.

   Laura Hernandez said she visited her sister, Morelia, in Cuba two months ago, and said she was desperate to get out. "When I came from Cuba, she said that they couldn't stand it any more," she said.

   Photograph by Herald Photographer Carl Juste. From left to right, Ovilio Conde, America Lau, Migdalia Ramos Conde, Alex Conde, Elsa Conde, Arturo Conde, Alfredo Conde, Rebeca Croes, Laura Hernandez

Cubans Come in Quiet Flood

Barbaritaherrera A new wave of exiles, larger than the one that came in Mariel, is adapting to a new life as immigrants, quietly reshaping the Miami area. There's a video that accompanies the online package.

Coast Guard Interdictions Up

The Coast Guard is on pace to interdict more Cubans at sea this year than any year since the 1994 balsero crisis. Last year already set a post-1994 record.

Relative of Repatriated Migrants Will Buck Republican Party

Mercedesaracelyshernandez Mercedes and Aracelys Hernandez pose at the historic monument at Cuban Memorial Boulevard Tuesday. Mercedes, 42, and Aracelys, 31, are awaiting word on whether their niece, Elisabet Hernandez, will be allowed to leave Cuba to come to the United States. Elisabet was among the 15 Cubans the Coast Guard repatriated after they were found on an old bridge in the Florida Keys in January. A judge’s ruling has since found that they should not have been taken back to Cuba because the bridge is U.S. territory. Taking a political stance, Mercedes said she plans to switch her party registration from Republican to Democrat because, as she puts it, “the only people that have recognized us and seen us are the ones we went to see in Washington March 8.” Hernandez and Ramon Saul Sanchez met with Democrats Bob Menendez and Bill Nelson, Sanchez said. The U.S. government has helped the Cubans get visas to come to the United States. Sanchez didn’t want to touch the politics of it. “My position is that this is not a partisan issue, but a humane one.” Photo: sisters Mercedes and Aracelys Hernandez

Repatriated Cubans Who Landed on Bridge May Return

Cubanswaiting The Miami Herald's Jay Weaver reports: "A group of Cubans who landed on an old Florida Keys bridge and were repatriated to Cuba in January may be days away from returning to the United States under a unique agreement with the federal government, a team of lawyers and advocates said Tuesday." AP Photo: some of the Cubans who are awaiting word on their status.

Cubans On Cruise to Uncertainty

   A Carnival cruise ship is poised to turn over to the Coast Guard 28 Cuban migrants it picked up on the high seas, after having stopped in Galveston, Texas, over the weekend, Coast Guard officials said today. And just this morning, another half dozen Cuban migrants made it to dry land at Sand Key, according to the Coast Guard. Cuban exile activist Ramón Saúl Sánchez said the cruise staff was told by the U.S. government that instead of turning over the Cubans to immigration authorities at the Galveston port, they must transfer them to a Coast Guard cutter at sea because they do not qualify as "dry foot."

Cubans face treacherous journey from DR to PR

The Herald's Frances Robles reports on a new trend in Cuban migration: a treacherous passage between Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico has a US-owned island that qualifies as dry-foot.

Coast Guard: 5 Cubans May Have Died at Sea

Five Cuban migrants may have died in the past two weeks trying to make it to U.S. shores, and the Coast Guard said today it repatriated to Cuba 44 migrants picked up at sea in the last few days. Here's the link to the full story in the Miami Herald:

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