The lighthouse scaled by a group of Cuban migrants does not count as “dry land”, according to a ruling made by a federal judge on Tuesday. The decision means that the 24 Cuban migrants who have been held in detention on a cutter belonging to the US Coast Guard for the past month will now be processed to be sent back to Cuba, according to a statement from the agency.
In May, the migrants clambered over the American Shoal Lighthouse, a 136-year-old iron structure that is situated around 6.5 miles to the south of the Florida Keys. The migrants remained on the lighthouse in a standoff that lasted for several hours before they were persuaded to come down by the Coast Guard.
The group has been the center of fierce debate in regards to the US immigration policy that allows Cubans who have set foot on US soil to remain in the country but sends those apprehended at sea back home. A surge of Cubans attempting to get to the US, fueled by fears that the thawing of US-Cuba relations would see the policy rescinded, has actually resulted in the policy becoming increasingly controversial.
Judge Darrin P. Gayles agreed with the federal government in his ruling, noting that since the lighthouse is an abandoned structure that is both unlivable and seven miles away from dry land, the migrants being intercepted there by the Coast Guard is essentially no different than having been caught at sea.