MIAMI – Three Cubans swam and waded about two miles to shore Tuesday after jumping from their rickety wooden boat and refusing help from the U.S. Coast Guard (search). A fourth was taken aboard a state vessel.
Upon reaching land, the three swimmers raised their arms in victory and walked gingerly into the mangroves on North Key Largo.
They were soon taken into custody by the Border Patrol (search) and were being taken to a detention center in Miami-Dade County for processing, immigration spokeswoman Ana Santiago said. The fourth man was to be interviewed by immigration officials to determine his status, the Coast Guard said.
Cubans who reach U.S. soil generally are allowed to stay, while those intercepted at sea usually are sent back.
The Cubans were spotted by a Coast Guard jet around 2 p.m. and two vessels were sent out to the area, Petty Officer Ryan Doss said. They swung their oars at the boat to keep the vessels at bay, then got out of their boat and swam.
The three initially threw life jackets back to Coast Guardsmen, but eventually put them on. One of the swimmers was wearing flippers.
The fourth became tired and was taken aboard a state vessel, where he was given a life vest and handcuffed.