A video has surfaced on Facebook of a group of about 12 Cuban refugees halfway through their voyage to Miami on a tiny motorboat, displaying their rudimentary navigation technology and hoping to make it ashore in America “with luck.”
The video appears to show 12 people–though the camera angles allow for potentially more hidden behind others–in a very small boat somewhere in between the span of water connecting Cuba to Florida. The cameraman pans to all sides of the boat to show “there is not a trace of land here–unless you go down deep to find it.”
The men on the boat appear in very high spirits, even teasing each other about fearing sharks and expressing hope their loved ones will join them soon. At one point, amid the laughter, the cameraman warns the navigator to stop joking around and keep his eye on the compass.
The compass appears to be a large and very old contraption in a cup.
Martí Noticias, a U.S. based network focusing on Cuban-American issues, confirms that the travelers made their way ashore. The film is not dated and began circulating through social media until it was posted by Martí Noticias this week. The video appears to be at least two years old, however, as it was uploaded by one of the men onboard in September 2014 with the caption “Congratulations brothers of the crossing– 2 years.”
The video’s renewed popularity comes as the number of Cubans attempting to flee the island has risen exponentially in 2015, largely due to President Obama’s concessions to the Castro regime in December. U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported in January a 60% increase in the number of Cuban refugees attempting to flee to the United States via the seas, as well.
There has been a 170% increase in the number of cases of Cuban refugees being intercepted in the waters off Florida between January and April 2015, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, which has recorded 2,086 cases occurring this year.
In an interview with Martí Noticias, Coast Guard officer Marylin Fajardo confirmed that authorities believe President Obama offering economic benefits to Cuba has triggered panic among Cubans trapped under the totalitarian regime, who fear the Castros will use their new benefits to increase crackdowns on dissidents and take even a higher percentage of wages from Cuban workers than they already do. “The number of rafters attempting to reach the coasts of the United States from December 1 through 16 was only 132 Cubans,” she explained, “but after the announcement, on December 17, more than 400 Cubans tried to [make the trip] … so yes, this had to do with the announcement.”
Cubans, she added, fear that President Obama will yield another concession to the Cuban government and repeal the Cuban Adjustment Act, which provides Cuban refugees political asylum under the famed “wet foot–dry foot” policy.
In a statement on the increase in Cuban migration in January, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson asserted that any changes in policy towards Cuban refugees would not affect illegal immigrants trying to cross the United States from Central America who do not have political reasons for their voyage. He wrote:
The United States government is creating an alternative, lawful path for children at risk of harm in Central America to come to the United States: if you are an adult lawfully in the United States, you may apply to bring your child from Guatemala, El Salvador or Honduras to the United States, provided the child can qualify for refugee or parole status under our laws.
In the same message, Johnson asserted that the Obama administration will increase its Coast Guard presence to “aggressively patrol the Caribbean and Florida Straits to interdict migrants traveling from Cuba or Haiti to the United States by water.”