U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement held 15 people in custody after their boat capsized off the coast of Miami on Oct. 17. Four women died when the vessel, which was apparently used for smuggling, overturned, and the survivors were detained while the incident was being investigated.
U.S. Coast Guard crews found 15 survivors clinging to wreckage early in the morning. The group was found near the 25-foot boat, which capsized approximately 7 miles from Miami. The survivors, including the boat’s captain and crew, were taken into custody and charged with attempted smuggling and returning to the U.S. after deportation.
Four men released
Four of the survivors were released from custody. The men were all Haitian nationals, and will be witnesses in the impending criminal investigation. Since the accident, Haitian activists had called on ICE to release the survivors, or at least their names, so that their families can be notified. Nestor Yglesias, a spokesman for ICE, told the Miami Herald that information could not be released.
Since the Haitian earthquakes in 2010, the U.S. has maintained an immigration policy where that country’s residents cannot be deported unless they have a criminal record. Despite the federal order, Haitian immigrants have been held in custody, and their released has been a slow process. According to the Miami Herald, this most recent incident surprised activists.
“Haitians are getting released, it’s just taking a long time,” Randy McGrorty, executive director of Catholic Legal Services, told the Miami Herald, “I am perplexed as to why they are keeping them so long. This [release] was pretty quick.”
The four men were released on Oct. 22. According to the Miami Herald, they do not qualify for Temporary Protected Status, which was the allowance given to Haitians after the earthquakes. However, according to the Washington Post, cooperating with law enforcement in the crash investigation may help them earn eligibility to work in the U.S.
“We’ll do our best to assist them in their transition to life in South Florida,” Marleine Bastien, executive director of Haitian Women of Miami, told the Washington Post.