The U.S. Coast Guard on Wednesday rescued a man 15 miles out to sea off the Florida Keys stranded on a windsurf board, and federal authorities said Thursday he is a migrant who was attempting to flee Cuba.
A crew from Coast Guard Station Islamorada found him on the surfboard wearing a life jacket and carrying a global positioning satellite device and several cell phones, the agency said in a statement on Twitter.
The Border Patrol on Thursday confirmed he was attempting a maritime migration from Cuba. The Coast Guard transferred the man to medics, who took him to a local hospital where he was treated for dehydration, Coast Guard spokeswoman Petty Officer Nicole Groll said.
He was released from the hospital the next day, and the Border Patrol took him into custody, Adam Hoffner, division chief for U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Miami operations, said Thursday afternoon.
Despite the man’s harrowing journey, he is likely to be sent back to Cuba, like most migrants trying to leave the island country have ever since the end of the “wet foot, dry foot” policy in early 2017. Under that U.S. immigration policy, those caught at sea were returned to Cuba, but those who set foot on U.S. soil above the high-water mark were allowed to stay and apply for permanent residency after a year.
Maritime migration from Cuba slowed dramatically in the months after the Obama administration ended wet foot, dry foot. However, in the past two years, it has spiked due to deteriorating political and economic conditions within the island country.
On Thursday alone, three groups of Cuban migrants arrived in separate landings throughout the Florida Keys.
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