46 Cuban migrants who came ashore in Fla. Keys share ordeal

DORAL, FLA. (WSVN) - An hours-long bus ride brought a long journey to freedom to a jubilant close for dozens of Cuban migrants, one day after they came ashore in the Florida Keys.

7News cameras captured the emotional arrival outside Catholic Charities Legal Services in Doral, Monday night. One by one, the 46 migrants stepped off the bus and into the arms of relieved family members who had been waiting for hours.

One migrant said he was happy to have made it to the U.S. “It’s good to be here, really good, really good,” said Yoslan Zaldivar Contreas. “I am free now,” he said.

But freedom did not come easy for these migrants, who touched American soil just in time for the holidays.

Speaking through a translator, one woman told 7News it was a difficult two-day journey, and at one point a giant wave almost overturned their boat. “It was very sad. We almost drowned,” she said.

The migrants reached the Keys in three separate groups, early Sunday morning. The first group of 11 Cuban migrants arrived in Tavernier at 5:30 a.m. The second group, comprised of 22 Cuban migrants, landed in Boca Chica Key, which is north of Key West. A third group of 13 migrants arrived in Big Pine Key at around 7:30 a.m.

Experts said they expect the number of Cuban migrants to make the dangerous journey by boat across the Florida Straits to climb. “We have seen a sharp increase in the number of Cubans arriving into the United States,” said Sebastian Arcos, Assistant Director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University.

Arcos said Cubans are being pushed away by a regime unchanged by the death of Fidel Castro, and they are drawn to America out of fear of what the future holds for the “wet foot, dry foot” policy, under a new administration.

“The ‘pull’ factor is the fact that the United States immigration law might change and will probably change,” said Arcos.

Late Monday night, migrants at Catholic Charities FaceTimed family members to let them know they made it to the U.S. safely.

Speaking in Spanish, one of the migrants ready to begin his new life in America said, “Everything in life can come to you. If you strive for it, you can get it. Don’t give up.”

“My life, it always was my dream: live here,” said Zaldivar Contreas.

Catholic Charities found those migrants without family in the U.S. a place to stay.

Copyright 2018 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.