The U.S. Coast Guard is ramping up patrols, along with their message, that taking to the high seas off Florida’s coast is a very risky endeavor.
This month has seen authorities repatriate hundreds of migrants back to Cuba and Haiti.
A patrol boat spotted Elian Lopez Cabrera stuck at sea, on a windsurf board, about 15 miles off the coast of Marathon Wednesday evening.
“One of the reasons they were able to locate him is because he had safety equipment with him,” Hansel Pintos, a spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard said. “He had GPS equipment, he had more than one cell phone, so he was able to make contact and alert the Coast Guard.”
Get South Florida local news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC South Florida newsletters.
Cabrera, from Cuba, has relatives in South Florida who are hoping that because of his medical condition, a colostomy bag, he will get to stay in America.
“He’s not asking for help from the government, from anybody,” Cabrera’s cousin Dunia Rodriguez said. “He wants to be free, he wants to live a normal life and be with his family, we are here for him, we are not asking for money.”
Thursday morning also saw a group of Cubans arrive in Key West.
Cell phone video was taken of some 15 migrants near the 3900 block of Roosevelt Boulevard around 2:30 a.m.
U.S. Border Patrol told NBC 6 they are investigating a suspected maritime smuggling event.
“I was crying because I never expected I would see something like that in my life,” Roberto Garcia, who saw the group getting off a boat and walking onto land, said. “I helped them to smoke a cigarette, or give water, speak with the family in Cuba or here, it was really nice.”
Typically, migrants caught trying to enter the country illegally are cared for, medically treated if necessary and then sent back to their home countries.