October 9, 2005


More Cubans Striking Out Across the Sea: The Coast Guard notes a big increase in the number of people trying make land in the U.S. Patrols are stepped up to stem the tide. (John-Thor Dahlburg, October 9, 2005, LA Times)
[T]he number of Cubans trying to reach the United States via the perilous journey across the Florida Straits has reached its highest level in more than a decade.

The Coast Guard says it intercepted 1,499 Cubans before they could reach U.S. shores last year. Already this year, it has halted 2,251 Cubans at sea.

During the fiscal year that ended Friday, the Coast Guard intercepted 2,712 Cubans, or more than double the 1,225 stopped in fiscal year 2004.

"Definitely the numbers are up. One would think there are also more getting through," said Luis Diaz, another Coast Guard spokesman.

One key factor in the increased interceptions, Diaz said, is that the Coast Guard and its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security, have become more vigilant in monitoring the stretch of water between the United States and Cuba.

In July, the Coast Guard announced that it was shifting two additional patrol boats to the Florida Keys and increasing both sea and aerial surveillance.

Planes and helicopters from the federal Customs and Border Protection service were also ordered to help, and the Florida Highway Patrol was enlisted as well to check boats being towed south on Florida's roads to see if they belonged to potential smugglers.

Diaz said the increased efforts, which had to be temporarily modified so the Coast Guard could rescue victims of Hurricane Katrina, have paid off.

"The reality is that we're stopping more," he said.

At-sea interdictions now total more than in any single year since 1994, when more than 37,000 Cubans, many using inner tubes or flimsy rafts, braved the hazards of an ocean voyage to reach the United States.

Since then, U.S. immigration policy has been changed to distinguish between Cubans detained on the water — who usually get sent back — and those who manage to set foot in the United States. They usually are allowed to stay.
Nothing we do as a nation reflects more shamefully on us than our allowing Castro to remain in power but trying to stop instead of help those fleeing him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 9, 2005 9:38 AM

Why would they be leaving the socialist paradise of Cuba on flimsy rafts. I mean, they have universal healthcare, failproof state protection from hurricanes, and universal literacy. Just doesn't make sense.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at October 9, 2005 11:17 AM

Few things in life are more amusing than conversing with a college professor who says "Castro is bad, but..." followed by a litany of b.s. accomplishments the Cuban state has supposedly made in combating illiteracy and improving medical care. It's like they've never heard of Soviet Union.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at October 9, 2005 4:59 PM

Of course OJ's point is correct.

We gasp that Europe and America basically refused to accept Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany in the 30s, and, some of us anyway, are appalled at what the Brits did with Eastern European peoples in the zone that they occupied after WWII, but somehow sending Cubans back to that hellhole is okey-dokey -- unless they have a 95 mph fastball that is.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at October 9, 2005 6:47 PM