A group of Cuban immigrants who came ashore Wednesday on Singer Island are no longer in federal custody.
The 16 men and two women were taken into custody to check that their criminal backgrounds were clear and that they were in good health.
Since then, the group has been released, said Elee Erice, spokeswoman for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office in Fort Lauderdale. The group is now with a religious organization in Miami that helps migrants transition into life in the United States.
Their boat, named Esperanza (the Spanish word for hope), is believed to have left Cuba on Friday.
When border patrol agents met them on Singer Island between 1 and 2 a.m., the Cubans' boat had already washed ashore.
The 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act allows for legal permanent residency for those who qualify because of an amendment that states that any Cuban who steps foot on United States shore can stay. It's commonly referred to as the "wet-foot, dry-foot policy."
A Cuban man living in the United States was told by family members that his brother was one of the 16 men on the boat. The man, who asked that his name not be used, added that he was told that by the time the migrants arrived in Palm Beach County, they were out of food and water, and running low on gas.
Their battered boat was equipped with an old Russian car engine and a makeshift rudder and sail.
National Weather Service Warning Coordination Meteorologist Jon Rizzo said the group likely hit rough sailing Monday because of thunderstorms that originated in Cuba. Those storms produced winds at about 35 mph.
There have been four similar incidents in Palm Beach County in the past six months.
In June, a boat dropped off about 10 Haitians off Jupiter Island in a suspected case of human smuggling. At the time, only two of the 10 people were located. It is unknown what happened to the others.
In April, a Bahamian man came ashore on Palm Beach's north end with more than 400 pounds of marijuana. Agents seized the marijuana and the 12-foot vessel used to transport it.
In March, the U.S. Coast Guard arrested a 36-year-old boat captain from the Bahamas for human smuggling. Agents seized the boat which came ashore near Palm Beach. Two Jamaican men were found on the boat.
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