MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Dozens of Cuban migrants, including at least nine children, came ashore Friday throughout Southern Florida and Dry Tortugas, officials said.
A total of 87 Cuban migrants reached Florida, said Steve McDonald, spokesman for the U.S. Border Patrol. Two groups totaling 37 people came ashore in Marathon, 28 came to Miami Beach, three reached Key Biscayne and 19 made it to the Dry Tortugas at the tip of the Florida Keys.
The group that came ashore in Miami Beach consisted of 12 men, seven women and nine children — the youngest 6 years old, said Arley Flaherty, a Miami Beach police spokeswoman.
"For the most part they looked fine, just a little dehydrated or cold," Flaherty said. "Nobody had identification with them. They had relatives' phone numbers with them, some were in shorts. The kids were in long shirts, shoes or sandals."
The migrants were taken to immigration offices, where their cases will be processed, Flaherty said.
The Miami Beach group said they left Cuba on Wednesday night and that a good Samaritan picked them up at sea after their makeshift boat ran into trouble, Flaherty said.
McDonald said authorities were investigating whether the boat actually had trouble or if the story was concocted to deflect attention from suspected smugglers.
According to the Miami-based Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, migrants have been smuggled into Florida in recent years aboard sophisticated speedboats rather than arriving on rickety, homemade craft.
The Coast Guard said the number of captured migrants spiked to 2,834 in 2005 from 1,499 the previous year.
Under the so-called wet-foot, dry-foot policy, Cubans who reach U.S. soil are usually allowed to stay, while most picked up at sea are sent home.
In a separate incident Friday, authorities took into custody two alleged Cuban smugglers, along with four migrants from Ecuador and two from Peru, who were found on a boat in the waters just off Miami Beach, McDonald said.