DORAL, FLA. (WSVN) - Several of the 21 Cuban migrants who, officials said, reached the shores of Key Largo, early Sunday, reunited with loved ones when they arrived in Doral.
7News cameras captured the emotional reunion between the migrants, who were seeking freedom in South Florida, and relieved relatives at Church World Services, Sunday afternoon.
The new arrivals said they were part of a larger group of 46 migrants that came ashore in the Florida Keys, Dec. 18. However, they were caught and repatriated back to Cuba.
Undeterred, they tried again. After floating for more than two days at sea, they landed on Key Largo, just in time to see New Year’s fireworks light up the night sky.
“We were reaching Key Largo. We saw the fireworks,” said one of the migrants, speaking through a translator. “That was a great welcome.”
A younger migrant, also speaking in Spanish, told 7News the emotions he felt are difficult to put into words. “It was the best thing in the world,” he said. “Once we landed ashore, I said, ‘Wow. I made it.'”
And those two days at sea came with several dangerous challenges.
“The sharks almost ate us,” said migrant Yoadis Pinera-Rivero, through a translator. “That was a disaster. After four days, that’s when they found us. We had to burn the boat so they’d leave us. We had to drink water we had there for days with nothing to eat. Eating coconut for four days, and that’s how we survived.”
The 17 men and four women were taken into custody before turned over to Church World Service. Family members threw a party Sunday afternoon, welcoming both the new year and new arrivals.
“We are the first Cubans to arrive in 2017 here in the United States, we are very content,” said migrant Gonzalo Valdez, through a translator. “We are very happy.”
One family member threw a party for the migrants in Hialeah to celebrate their arrival. “Thank God, the United States people, they found them,” Luis Calcada, cousin of one of the migrants. “Now they’re here, and it’s good to have them here, home.”
The group will be allowed to stay in the U.S. under the “wet foot, dry foot” policy.
The number of migrants coming to the United States has increased in recent weeks. Experts said it is due to fears of possible changes to the “wet foot, dry foot” policy when the new administration takes office in a couple of weeks.
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