MIAMI – Four of the 14 Cubans intercepted at sea aboard a vintage taxi converted into a boat will be allowed to stay in the United States because they have valid immigration documents, but the others will be sent back to Cuba (search), U.S. officials said Thursday.
Rafael Diaz Rey (search), the mechanic who built the blue, 1948 Mercury taxi-boat, and his wife and their two children appear to have legitimate documents that would permit them to stay in this country, according to the U.S. attorney's office in Miami.
An attorney for Democracy Movement, a Cuban exile group in Miami (search), said Diaz and his family last year won the documents in an annual lottery in Cuba for legal travel to the United States. But the communist government of President Fidel Castro refused to let the family leave, said attorney Wilfredo Allen.
"They had to act before the documents expired," Allen said.
After interviewing the remaining 10 migrants, Homeland Security Department officials concluded they have no reasonable fear of being persecuted or tortured if they are repatriated to Cuba, according to documents filed in federal court.
Lawyers representing the Cubans, who were intercepted Tuesday about 14 miles south of Key West, have asked District Judge K. Michael Moore to intervene and allow the entire group to stay. Moore did not immediately issue a ruling.
Under the U.S. "wet foot-dry foot" policy, Cubans intercepted at sea are generally returned to Cuba and those who make it to U.S. soil are usually allowed to stay.
Family members said Diaz was making his third attempt to reach the United States aboard a car converted into a boat.
In 2004, they said he was intercepted on a Buick sedan powering a barge and a decade earlier had to turn back because of electrical problems in a 1947 Buick.
Details about how the latest car-boat operated were not known. It was outfitted with a prow on the front that allowed it to cut through waves. Previous car-boats from Cuba have been powered by a propeller attached to the drive shaft.
Under U.S. policy, the car-boats are sunk at sea after being intercepted.