McALLEN, Texas — Authorities in Cameron County are used to encountering illegal immigrants, however on Labor Day they made an unusual find when a group of Cuban immigrants arrived at South Padre Island after a 1,200 mile voyage.
The six men originally from the island of Nueva Gerona, just south of Cuba, washed ashore, just north of the tourist area, sometime early Monday morning. The area is under the watch of the Cameron County Park Police, said Police Chief Horacio Zamora.
“A person driving north on the beach saw their boat on the shore,” Zamora said. “He took pictures of the boat and continued driving north. As he was driving north he ran into the group and helped them.”
The Good Samaritan took the immigrants into the police station where Zamora’s officers checked them out before turning them over to U.S. Customs and Border Protection for processing.
Because of the current political situation in communist Cuba, those who arrive to U.S. soil are able to request legal residency and eventual citizenship in what is known as the dry feet policy. Cubans generally flee to Florida which is considerably closer to Cuba. Officials are still looking into how the men were able deal with the long voyage.
In recent months, South Texas has been the ground Zero for an immigration crisis following a shift in human smuggling routes that led to thousands of illegal immigrants coming through the area rapidly. This shift is overwhelming the struggling border security agencies, their processing facilities, and their detention centers. Despite the immigration crisis, this is the first time Cuban immigrants have washed up ashore in South Padre Island.