MIAMI (WSVN) – Just two days after a federal judge’s decision to repatriate the Cuban migrants found on a lighthouse, attorneys held an emergency hearing, after a message sent out to sea was found accusing the Coast Guard of mistreatment.
According to Cuban activist Ramon Saul Sanchez, the Democracy Movement presented an emergency stay in court just two days after a federal judge ordered that the migrants be repatriated to Cuba. On Tuesday, officials with the U.S. Coast Guard released a statement that read, “The judges ruled that the Cuban migrants who sought refuge on American Shoal Light are ‘feet wet’ and will be processed for repatriation in accordance with standard U.S. immigration policy.”
In court, Thursday, attorneys of the migrants requested more time, asked for a hearing on the matter and also asked for an opportunity to speak with the migrants. So far, none of this has been done.
Sanchez told 7News they are also requesting an investigation because they have information that the Cuban migrants may have been abused on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter.
On Wednesday, a letter sealed in a bottle was found by a fisherman in international waters. In the letter, believed to be from the migrants, there are claims of abuse, including sleeping on the floor and were fed food only fit for dogs.
“We got a call from the Coast Guard yesterday about 3 or 4 p.m., sometime in the afternoon, saying that they had found a bottle with a message inside from the rafters on board the cutter,” said Sanchez. “There they said that they are being mistreated and that there is a very sick woman on board and other issues, and this morning we are asking the government to not repatriate these people and to leave them here until we can find out what happened. They said they have launched an independent investigation, and we welcome that.”
In response to this letter, the U.S. Coast Guard released a statement, Thursday morning, which stated, “This was a very challenging situation for both the migrants and our Coast Guard crews as their case was adjudicated. The migrants were afforded the most comfortable conditions possible given the extenuating circumstances. All migrants receive food, water, clothing and medical care while on board our cutters. Safety of life at sea, regardless of nationality, is the Coast Guard’s primary concern.”
The migrants were found on the lighthouse off Sugarloaf Key on May 20 and were living on a Coast Guard cutter since then. A debate ensued over whether that lighthouse actually qualifies as land under the wet-foot, dry-foot policy. In this case, a judge ruled that it did not.
A decision on whether the judge will consider the defense from the legal team representing the migrants may be made Thursday afternoon.
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