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Judge: Cuban migrants who landed on lighthouse have 'wet feet'

Back in May, our blog discussed how a group of Cuban migrants seeking to enter the United States was intercepted at sea by the Coast Guard, and faced with detention, decided to swim to nearby American Shoal Lighthouse. The group remained there for a few hours, until they were convinced by the Coast Guard to climb aboard a cutter, where they've been held ever since.

Since that time, attorneys for the U.S. government and the 24 migrants have argued in court about the application of the "wet foot, dry foot" policy to this scenario. 

To recap, wet foot, dry foot is a policy dating back to the 1960s, which holds that Cuban migrants apprehended on the water between their home nation and the U.S. have "wet feet," and must be taken home, while those Cuban migrants who actually set foot on U.S. soil have "dry feet," and are allowed to stay.

Indeed, having dry feet means Cuban migrants are initially eligible for legal permanent resident status, and have instant access to a host of government benefits, including a path to citizenship.

In recent developments, the federal judge presiding over the fate of the 24 migrants determined just last week that they are properly considered to have wet feet under the law and, as such, must be returned to their home country.

The decision in the case seemed to hinge on the location of the lighthouse itself, with the judge declaring that because the abandoned and dangerous structure is located seven miles from dry land, and the group "would necessarily require transportation from the Lighthouse to the mainland in order to survive," it was essentially no different than being apprehended at sea.  

While the decision understandably came as a disappointment to the migrants and their family members, their attorneys have indicated that they will be seeking an emergency injunction to block the repatriation while the case is pending on appeal.

As always, stay tuned for updates …

Consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible if you or a loved one has questions or concerns relating to any immigration matter.

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