Two men have been indicted by a Key West grand jury for allegedly smuggling Cuban refugees into the country last month, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday
Elio Diaz-Hernandez and Edel Dominguez-Carvajal, both of Miami, reportedly brought 31 Cubans to the United States in a boat that grounded on shore in the Marquesas Keys.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami, federal Customs and Border Protection and Coast Guard aircraft spotted the boat grounding on the remote islands about 30 miles west of Key West.
Domniguez-Carvajal and the 31 Cuban refugess reportedly jumped off the boat and fled on foot. Subsequently, Coast Guard crews from Key West arrived at the Marquesas and located Diaz-Hernandez, Dominguez-Carvajal, and the refugees, prosecutors contend.
The alleged smugglers are each facing one conspiracy charge and 31 smuggling counts. The conspiracy count carries a maximum term of five years in prison, and each smuggling count carries a maximum term of 15 years.
According to prosecutors, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents determined that the refugees entered the country without prior authorization.
Under the U.S. wet-foot, dry-foot policy towards Cuban refugees, those who reach U.S. soil are allowed to remain in the country. Those intercepted at sea are treated like refugees from other countries who, in order to be admitted to the U.S., must demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution upon return to their homeland.