Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Hokey Pokey

More wet-foot/dry-foot stuff going on in Miami re the 28 migrants who were attempting to get to the United States. Remember that last week the U.S. charged 3 people with smuggling. At their initial hearing, Assistant Federal Defender Bill Barzee asked that the 28 migrants be kept here as witnesses. The judge said yes. But the U.S. had a problem -- if they brought the Cuban migrants ashore, then they got to stay. So the government kept them on a boat a couple feet out... Today, that changed. According to the AP story:

In an unusual move, 28 Cuban migrants were brought to U.S. soil so they can serve as witnesses in a criminal case against the men accused of organizing their deadly smuggling voyage. The decision announced Thursday also means the migrants can stay permanently in the United States.

U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta said the "unique circumstances" of the case led prosecutors to bring the group ashore under material witness warrants, which could require them to testify before a grand jury or in a trial.

"Smugglers often treat migrants as if they were human cargo," Acosta said. "This must stop."
The 28 migrants were brought to Key West early Wednesday after being detained aboard a Coast Guard cutter at sea since the July 8 chase, which resulted in the death of one Cuban woman. They were transferred to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials and brought to Miami early Thursday, officials said.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Lurana Snow agreed Thursday to allow all the Cuban migrants in U.S. custody to be released to their relatives in Miami under the guarantee that the families will pay $25,000 per person, if they do not appear in court when necessary.

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