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Coast Guard searching for 9 suspected Cuban migrants off Lake Worth Beach

Boat left Cuba on Dec. 10, capsized early Sunday morning, according to Coast Guard
Posted at 8:29 AM, Dec 19, 2022

LAKE WORTH BEACH, Fla. — The U.S. Coast Guard on Monday searched for nine suspected Cuban migrants whose boat capsized off the Palm Beach County coast over the weekend, authorities said.

According to the Coast Guard, a good Samaritan rescued a person around 3:30 p.m. Sunday off Lake Worth Beach.

The survivor — who is now in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection — said he and nine others left Cuba on Dec. 10 and their boat capsized early Sunday morning.

Elaine Gonzalez said one of the 10 people on the boat is her relative, Lazara Comas. Gonzalez didn't speak much English but came to NewsChannel 5 looking for answers for her cousin, and for the other people on the boat, one of whom she believes is 18 years old. 

"I am suffering," Gonzalez said in Spanish.

Gonzalez said she is suffering not just because of the knowledge her relative is still missing, but also because of the reason ten people would risk their lives in search of freedom. 

RELATED: Persecution, policy, economy driving Cuban migration to Florida

"I am suffering because of all the deaths of many children," Gonzalez said in Spanish.

Gonzalez immigrated to the United States 10 years ago and said she is so grateful to be here. She said she left behind a lifestyle with almost no food, indescribable health conditions and suppression.

Gonzalez said her heart aches now for those still living there, and the many people who try to escape never even make it.

"They emigrate and we have lost lives, even a child at sea, and it is painful," Gonzalez said in Spanish. "We are seeking support from all over the world to see what we can do, but the problem is that they were shipwrecked yesterday, that is to say, that there are still possibilities that we will find more people alive."

Pablo Perez can understand, to a degree, the emotions Elaine said she is going through.

"It sort of like, hits home because I am Cuban-born," Perez said.

Elaine Gonzalez says one of her family members was on the boat that left Cuba but capsized before reaching the U.S.
Elaine Gonzalez says one of her family members was on the boat that left Cuba but capsized before reaching the U.S.

Perez watched the search efforts from the shore and told NewsChannel 5 he sees two sides of the story.

"I have mixed emotions about the situation we face in this country, an immigration crisis we face every day," Perez said.

Perez said, in his opinion, the crisis is the rapid increase in the number of migrants coming to South Florida.

"Every day," Perez said. "Every day."

According to Customs and Border Protection, the number of migrant encounters in South Florida increased 500% between October and December of this year compared to the same time frame in 2021.

On the one hand, Perez said it's concerning to him, as someone who immigrated to the United States legally on the Freedom Flights during the 1970s.

"We were sponsored," Perez said. "My family members, they were welcoming us to this country. We didn't create a crisis."

On the other side, Perez, who emigrated from the country himself, understands the increase, and perhaps even welcomes it.

Pablo Perez offers his thoughts on the migration crisis that is impacting the U.S.
Pablo Perez offers his thoughts on the migration crisis that is impacting the U.S.

"I don't blame them to a certain degree after what you see what is going on there," Perez said. "I don't blame them whatsoever, and I hope that they understand how we conduct our life in this great country of ours. Here we complain about food prices, gas prices, but we still have the money to afford those things."

Perez said it's a two-sided problem, with no easy fix. 

"It is a crisis," Perez said. "I don't see the solution."

The U.S. Coast Guard said they will continue the search into the night, along with the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.

As of 5 p.m. Monday, there still was no update in the search. Sunday's migrant encounter marks the fourth in our five-county area in the past month and the third in Palm Beach County alone.