Twenty people from Cuba were stopped at sea off the Florida Keys this week in two separate attempts to enter the United States, the Coast Guard said Saturday.
The Coast Guard returned them to Cuba later in the week.
Coast Guard crews with Station Islamorada and agents with U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations stopped a 27-foot cabin cruiser about 19 miles south of Long Key in the Middle Keys Tuesday.
There were 13 people on board, according to a Coast Guard press release. Two of them were taken to shore to Homeland Security Investigations agents, and the 11 others were taken aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Charles David, Jr. and sent back to Cuba, the press release states.
On Wednesday, the Cutter Resolute stopped a 27-foot row boat about 43 miles off the city of Marathon, also in the Middle Keys.
The nine people on the vessel were taken aboard the Resolute, which took them to Cabanas, Cuba, the Coast Guard said.
Since Oct. 1, the beginning of the 2020 fiscal year, the Coast Guard has stopped 140 people from Cuba trying to enter the U.S., the agency said. In all of fiscal year 2019, the agency stopped 482 Cuban migrants, according to the press release.
Migration attempts from Cuba happened almost daily in the lead-up of the end of the Cold War-era “wet foot, dry foot” policy in January 2017. Since then, they are much rarer because there is little incentive to make the dangerous journey across the Straits of Florida.
The policy allowed those who reached U.S. soil to stay in the country and apply for permanent residency after a year. Those caught at sea were sent back to Cuba.
Now, all migrants attempting to enter the country without going through the legal channels are returned.