Florida Mayor to Sail on Homemade Raft From Cuba, Just Like Cuban Immigrants
A mayor from Florida is planning to highlight Cuban immigrants' dangerous travel to the United States.
De Bary Mayor Clint Johnson said that his plan will allow him to better empathize with the undocumented Cuban immigrants who head to the United States using unsafe boats.
"My plan is to go down [to Cuba] and build a raft and come back to Florida on it," Johnson said, as reported by the Guardian.
The 30-year-old mayor has already obtained a visa from the Cuban government, and he is scheduled to fly to the capital Havana in mid-April. Upon arrival, he will build a raft with the assistance of local Cuban contacts. It is illegal in Cuba to construct, repair or board a sea vessel that will be used for undocumented immigration.
After building the raft, Johnson, a self-confessed adventure-seeker, will go back to the Florida Keys in agreeable weather. He admitted that crossing the treacherous waters of the Florida Straits for 90 miles using only a boat -- made with two steel barrels and plywood -- excites him. Johnson, who is a licensed state contractor, built a trial raft this week.
Johnson said that some of the threats Cuban immigrants encounter at sea are sharks, dehydration from the scorching sun and storms. The official, however, doesn't appreciate the media attention because the U.S. Coast Guard might force him to have a chase boat to accompany him.
"I don't want it to get to the point where it's so safe, there's no point," Johnson said, as quoted by the Guardian. "I want to show the most respect possible to the people who have done this before and best share this experience. I don't want to turn this into a publicity stunt."
The U.S. Coast Guard urges Johnson to reconsider his plan, saying that plenty of Cuban and Haitian migrants die during the dangerous trip.
"Not only are the consequences of a voyage on handmade vessels potentially deadly, but they also put unnecessary risk on the lives of our Coast Guard men and women who respond to enforce U.S. law and keep those at sea safe," a Coast Guard statement read, as reported by WFTV.
In the last three months of 2015, 1,536 Cubans attempted to head to the United States, while almost 5,000 of them were caught at sea by the U.S. Coast Guard in the fiscal year 2015.
The number of Cubans heading to the United States has surged since President Barack Obama announced the thaw of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Numerous factors fuel the migration, particularly the immigration policies that have welcomed Cubans into the United States. Many fear that these policies could change now that relations are normalizing.
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