Activist takes legal steps on behalf of Cuban migrants as community prays

MIAMI (WSVN) - A local Cuban activist is taking legal steps to ensure the 19 migrants who were first discovered climbing a lighthouse off the Florida Keys, last week, remain in the United States.

Supporters of the migrants joined congregants at the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity in Miami, Monday night. “We’re going to pray today for the government to not send them back to Cuba,” said Cuban activist Ramon Saul Sanchez.

A nun in a white habit played the organ and sang a hymn in Spanish as parishioners joined in.

But Sanchez isn’t solely relying on the Almighty to prevent the migrants’ repatriation. He is also working with lawyers at the Democracy Movement to prepare court briefs on behalf of the 19 Cubans who climbed the American Shoal Lighthouse, Friday, after being spotted by the U.S. Coast Guard trying to make it to dry land.

When asked whether he considers the lighthouse to be dry land, Sanchez referred to a legal precedent set in 2006 when a group of Cubans made it to the old Seven Mile Bridge, which is not connected to land. A judge ruled they should have been allowed to stay in the United States.

“Well, the bridge was not land, [but] it was concrete, it was a structure, so it’s an integral part of the United States,” he said.

The migrants swam from their homemade boat to the lighthouse, which is located seven miles off the coast of Sugarloaf Key.

Local resident Alberto Conception put a screen grab from 7News on his smartphone. He said he found out of his cousin Levan was among the 19 Cubans when he spotted him on TV standing on what he called U.S. ground. “I think they are on American land. It is part of the United States,” he said through a translator.

Under the “Wet Foot, Dry Foot” policy, Cubans who reach U.S. soil are allowed to stay. Wilfredo Allen, the attorney who worked on the 2006 case, discussed the outcome with 7News last week. “Judge Moreno, who, I thought, in his decision, obviously, I thought it was brilliant because it came our way, he said that the bridge was part of the United States, as apple pie with vanilla ice cream,” he said.

The Cubans who scaled American Shoal, along with two others who remained on their vessel, are being held on a Coast Guard cutter until their fate is decided.

That is why supporters prayed the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity, Monday night, including a woman whose nephew is among those being detained. “The church represents the face of God, and we need help, so they don’t return them,” she said in Spanish.

If the migrants are returned, lawyers said they are ready to begin proceedings as early as Tuesday.

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