Hypothetical question about assisting Cuban immigrants to the US.
February 7, 2005 9:22 AM   Subscribe

Under the US's 'wet foot, dry foot' policy, Cubans who reach U.S. soil are allowed to stay while those caught at sea are sent home.

Hypothetically (and I mean that), Let's say an American were to: take a boat out between the US and Cuba, drive around looking for refugees, pick them up, brings them back to Florida, and there ends his involvement.

Is the American guilty of a crime? Does it make a difference if the authorities find out after the fact instead of catching him out on the open sea?

This may tread on IllegalFilter, so I emphasize that I'm absolutely not planning on doing this, I'm just curious to know why people SHOULDN'T do this.

(also, on re-read, I hate when I switch tenses in mid-sentence.)
posted by John Kenneth Fisher to Law & Government (11 answers total)
 
Based on my years of experience working at the INS unfortunate habit of watching "CSI: Miami," I believe aiding the refugees to shore is illegal.
posted by Skot at 10:18 AM on February 7, 2005


Even if it weren't illegal, does anyone have the slightest impression that you would not be arrested and held for quite some time under some ridiculous new "we don't know what you did but we don't like it" law?
posted by odinsdream at 10:36 AM on February 7, 2005


Let's look at this another way: you take a pick up truck and go to Mexico and pick up a bunch of Mexicans, hide them in your pick up truck and then bring them across the border. This is highly illegal and the fact that there are 'international waters' between the U.S. and Cuba would, I assume, make no difference in the equation.

Essentially you are bringing illegals onto U.S. soil. It makes no difference that there is neutral ground in between or that there is an exception for illegals who actually make it to land. Your situation would be different from the actual Cubans, as you have committed a crime, but if they make it to land, they are offered immunity. The fact that they get immunity I would assume would have no bearing on your condition.
posted by spicynuts at 10:38 AM on February 7, 2005


Actually, I think it's not only legal, but supported by the USCG. Check out Brothers To The Rescue.
posted by fandango_matt at 10:40 AM on February 7, 2005


It looks like the Brothers to the Rescue organization points out rafters, lets the coast guard pick them up, and then: "Those rescued [are] processed through U.S. immigration laws..."

I'm sure a lot of them are rejected. I don't see much of a problem with helping people drifting at sea, but "... brings them back to Florida, and there ends his involvement" is a bit different than handing them over to U.S. immigration authorities.
posted by odinsdream at 10:49 AM on February 7, 2005


I should add Brothers To The Rescue are simply notifying the USCG when they spot refugees at sea, so this doesn't really answer your question. Although I would imagine while the INS and the Feds wouldn't be thrilled if you were caught helping Cubans reach the States, can you imagine the bad press they'd get if they tried to prosecute you? "Justice Department Seeks Indictment For Man Who Helped Cuban Refugees Escape Communist Tyranny" Blah blah blah, Bush's SOTU address about bringing freedom and democracy to the world, etc.
posted by fandango_matt at 10:54 AM on February 7, 2005


What odinsdream said, and damn my posting-without-previewing!
posted by fandango_matt at 10:58 AM on February 7, 2005


Can they really make any distinction between people going out to pick up Cubans at sea and people who claim that the Cubans were in danger of death and picked them up for humanitarian reasons?
posted by biffa at 11:24 AM on February 7, 2005


biffa, yes... if after you save them from the ocean, you just drop them at the kwik-mart instead with the U.S. immigration authorities. That's the only difference, though.
posted by odinsdream at 2:12 PM on February 7, 2005


*instead of with
posted by odinsdream at 2:12 PM on February 7, 2005


Well, in my head the drop off included, say, fifty bucks and directions to the appropriate "we made it, we're Americans now" authorities, if that makes any diff.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 2:30 PM on February 7, 2005


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