By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
TWO Haitian women were apprehended in the Williams Town area on Tuesday evening, an immigration official reported on Wednesday.
One of the women had been previously arrested in February last year and deported back to Haiti. The woman is expected to be charged in the Freeport Magistrate’s Court this morning.
Immigration officials have also had their hands full processing hundreds of Cuban migrants apprehended last year in Bahamian waters while trying to make it to the US.
The last group was taken to Freeport on December 26, 2016 when US Coast Guard officials intercepted the migrants in the Cay Sal Bank area.
Immigration officer Napthali Cooper reported that the US Margaret Norvell brought 19 Cubans to Freeport, where they were handed over to immigration authorities at Lucayan Harbour.
The 15 men and four women left Cuba on a rustic vessel heading for Florida. Two days after leaving Cuba, they were spotted and stopped by the US Coast Guard in the Cay Sal Bank. The group was processed and flown to Nassau, where they will await repatriation.
Despite the dangers at sea, many Cubans continue to risk their lives for better a life in the US. A ‘wet foot, dry foot’ policy allows Cubans who reach US soil to remain in the country legally and apply for residency, however those caught at sea are sent back.
Since US President Barack Obama announced the normalisation of relations between Cuba and the US in late 2014, there is fear that the ‘wet foot, dry foot’ policy would end, leading a rush to leave the communist island.
According to internal Homeland Security Department documents obtained by The Associated Press, the rush has led to the highest number of Cubans trying to make the dangerous sea cross in the past eight years.
US President-elect Donald Trump, who will be inaugurated on January 20 as the 45th president of the United States, made it clear during one of his campaign stops in Florida that he thinks the “wet foot, dry foot” policy is unfair.
During 2016, hundreds of Cuban migrants have been intercepted in Bahamian waters and taken to Freeport.
When The Tribune contacted Senior Immigration of Enforcement Jermone Hutcheson II concerning the total number of Cuban migrants, this newspaper was told that officials were still working on the figures.
“We expect to release our statistics sometime later this month,” he said.
Grand Bahama has become a popular transit point for many immigrants trying to enter the US illegally.
Various nationalities, including Brazilians, Chinese, Ecuadorians, Dominicans, Haitians, and Jamaicans have been discovered and apprehended at safe houses in Grand Bahama. Some of these immigrants pay smugglers as much as $5,000 each to be smuggled to the US.