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Anglers Journal - - FIRST LIGHT -

The con­tro­ver­sial “wet foot/ dry foot” pol­icy that al­lowed Cuban mi­grants who made it to U.S. soil — in­clud­ing the Mar­que­sas Keys — to stay per­ma­nently ended this year. Nearly 40 derelict Cuban refugee boats were re­moved from the Mar­que­sas by or­der of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Com­mis­sion. The Mar­que­sas is part of the Key West Na­tional Wildlife Refuge, which Pres­i­dent Theodore Roo­sevelt cre­ated in 1908 to pro­tect nest­ing birds from plume hun­ters.

I came across these Cuban refugees on the south­east cor­ner of the Mar­que­sas shortly af­ter they ar­rived. They said they had been on the ocean for four days. Their boat is in the back­ground of the photo.

One of the refugees gave me a phone num­ber and asked me to call his fam­ily when I re­turned to Key West. I stood on the flats boat plat­form and, re­mark­ably, got a cell sig­nal and di­aled Cuba.

The boy with the towel on his head spoke with his mother and told her he had ar­rived safely. Tears all around. Then the U.S. Coast Guard ar­rived, and the refugees went back into the man­groves and stood on dry land so they would not be con­sid­ered “wet foot.”

I never got their names. That was about eight years ago. I won­der, some­times, how things turned out for the young men.

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