DANIA BEACH, Fla. (AP/WSVN) — The U.S. Coast Guard says more than two dozen Cuban migrants jumped from a boat and swam to land in Miami’s Virginia Key.
The Miami Herald reports that once the 27 migrants swam to land on Sunday they ran and hid.
7News cameras captured their boat tied to a tree along the shore.
Juan Montoya and his friends were among the first to spot the vessel.
“It’s like 20, 30 people inside the boat, and they’re all getting out,” he said.
“I got two of them and I stuck them in my car, and I brought them to the front gate,” said Alex Fernandez.
But Fernandez and the migrants he picked up would not get very far. They had no idea someone had called police.
Officers with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, aided by Miami Police officers, searched for the migrants by air and by land.
“They got me with the Cubans,” Fernandez said in Spanish on cellphone video he recorded.
He kept the camera rolling as he continued to speak with the migrants after they were put in the back of a cruiser.
Speaking in Spanish, one of the migrants told Fernandez, “What we want is that nothing happens to you because you helped us.”
Some roads in Miami’s Virginia Key were shut down during the search.
Sunday evening, customs officials said they had arrested 15 of the migrants. Cellphone video shows a handful of men being put into vans and police cruisers.
The migrants said their dangerous journey began Sept. 27. Their intended destination was Key West.
A migrant told Montoya he spent three weeks building the boat at his home. At one point, the migrants said, they considered trying to turn back.
“They got lost, and they were thinking of turning back,” said Montoya. “They actually turned back, and after like a day, they were like, ‘You know what? Let’s just turn back around and just see where we can get.'”
They reached Virginia Key at around 1 p.m. on Sunday.
The migrants were transported to the Dania Beach Border Patrol station to be processed. They will likely be be deported, dashing their dreams of starting over in the U.S.
“Everybody comes here for a better opportunity, you know, just for a better life,” said Montoya.
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