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Returned Cubans desperate

Posted on Fri, Jun. 30, 2006

Returned Cubans `desperate’
Associated Press

HAVANA – One of 15 Cuban migrants sent home after reaching an abandoned
bridge in the Florida Keys said the group is growing desperate after
three months awaiting final Cuban government approval to leave for good.

The migrants were returned to Cuba in January. But a deal allowing 14 of
them to emigrate permanently was reached in March between U.S. District
Frederic Moreno in Miami and the U.S. government, which had argued
that the U.S. Coast Guard acted correctly in sending the Cubans back.
Now all they lack is the ”white card,” an exit permit Cubans must
receive from the communist government to leave the island.

”All of us are desperate. They haven’t answered us,” Elizabeth
Hernández said Wednesday in a phone interview from a town east of Havana
in Matanzas province.

Fourteen of the 15 have humanitarian visas from the American government
to emigrate to the United States. U.S. officials did not give a visa to
the 15th, reportedly for giving them false statements.

The migrants have quit their jobs as instructed by Cuban authorities in
preparation to go to the United States.

Under the United States’ ”wet foot/dry foot” policy, most Cubans who
reach U.S. soil are allowed to remain, while those intercepted at sea
are generally sent home.

U.S. Coast Guard officials determined the old bridge in the Florida Keys
did not qualify as dry land because parts are missing and it no longer
connects to U.S. soil.

But the repatriations caused an uproar among South Florida’s Cuban exiles.

Cuba’s government has never publicly commented on the case. However,
when asked about it earlier this year, National Assembly
Ricardo Alarcón criticized U.S. immigration policies that he said
encourage Cubans to make the risky sea journey.

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