24 migrants reach land near Elliott Key

SOUTH MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) - Twenty-four Cuban migrants are being reunited with family members, just one day after landing on Sands Key in Miami-Dade County.

Teresa Hernandez, a mother of one of the migrants spotted in Sands Key, Tuesday afternoon, shed tears of joy after reuniting with her daughter Yeleni.

“Look, my daughter. Oh, my God,” she said in Spanish.

Hours before, Hernandez was anxious as 7News showed her video of her daughter just moments after she arrived to Miami. Hernandez was only visiting Miami from Cuba and had no idea her daughter would be arriving. “Ah, yes. Look, it’s my daughter,” she said in Spanish, full of emotion.

Another man, Pedro Quintana, spotted his son Angel among the group of migrants. “I never expected this,” he said. “I saw it on the news. I didn’t expect none of this.”

Officials said the group of migrants, 16 men, one young boy and eight women, made a fire to alert authorities that they had landed on the key, Tuesday afternoon.

“They have buckets that they used to extinguish a fire that they set over here to draw attention to the fact that they were on this beach,” 7SkyforceHD reporter Ralph Rayburn said ad he hovered above the scene.

Officials from Homeland Security and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission arrived on the key soon after.

Officials believe the migrants were dropped off on Sands Key, just north of Elliott Key, since the boat that brought them to the key was nowhere to be found.

“We believe that this was an organized maritime smuggling event by a smuggling organization,” said Lazaro Guzman of the U.S. Border Patrol.

Nearly 30 minutes after officials arrived, the migrants were seen walking away from the shoreline and deep into the sandbar, towards a docked Homeland Security vessel.

The migrants were seen communicating back and forth with officials from both FWC and Homeland Security.

Officials said Miami Fire Rescue and Florida Fish and Wildlife were unable to dock the vessel at the shore due to the shallow waters, so the migrants had to make the short trek through the waters to get to the vessel.

Video captured two migrants propping up an exhausted fellow traveler by the arms as they walked together through the water.

About an hour later, the migrants were taken to Biscayne National Park Convoy Point where they were then transported via a U.S. Border Control van to the U.S. Border Control office.

People at a marina nearby saw everything as it took place. “That sure is scary, I saw a little kid, and that sure is scary,” said one woman.

One migrant was injured in the journey. “We diagnosed one subject as being in bad shape, and he was taken to a local area hospital, “Guzman said. “The other 23 seemed to be in good health.”

The mother of one of the migrants, Yeleni, was overcome with tears after finding out her daughter was among the group. “Yes, that’s my girl,” she said in Spanish.

Ironically, Yeleni’s mother is in Florida visiting from the Island and never expected to see her daughter here.

Another man spotted his son, Angel, among the group. “I never expected this. I saw it on the news, I didn’t expect none of this,” said Pedro Quintana through a translator.

Under the Wet Foot, Dry Foot policy, the group of migrants is allowed to stay in the United States.

Those who have family members in Miami will stay with them, and those who have no family ties to Miami will be given places to stay in other cities and states where they can work.

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