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Fla. Judge Throws Out Migrant Suit

June 10, 2000

MIAMI (AP) _ A class-action lawsuit aimed at preventing the government from sending back Cuban migrants who reach U.S. territorial waters but not U.S. soil has been thrown out by a federal judge.

Francisco Abreu, a Miami engineer, filed the lawsuit after his wife and son were intercepted last summer by the U.S. Coast Guard in the Florida Straits, then sent back to Cuba.

U.S. District Judge William M. Hoeveler ruled Thursday that Abreu lacked legal standing to bring the lawsuit on behalf of Cuban migrants because the people the lawsuit proposed to represent don’t live in the United States.

Hoeveler also ruled that Abreu’s challenge was without merit because the government has the authority to enforce immigration law as it sees fit.

The decision is consistent with previous court rulings deferring to the INS’ authority to enforce immigration law.

``I’m disappointed in the decision, though not surprised,″ said Wilfredo Allen, one of Abreu’s attorneys.

The INS policy Abreu challenged, known as the ``wet-foot dry-foot″ policy, was put in place in 1995 to help stem the tide of immigrants.

Under the policy, Cubans intercepted at sea are sent back if they cannot prove they face political persecution back home.

Migrants who reach U.S. shores are protected by the older, 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act. They are allowed to stay in this country, and can apply for residency after a year and a day.

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