[JURIST] US District Judge Federico Moreno ruled Tuesday that the US Coast Guard [official website] acted unreasonably when it sent 15 Cubans back home after their boat reached an abandoned bridge in January and said that the Cubans had reached US soil. The Coast Guard acted under the government's "wet-foot, dry foot" policy [Coast Guard FAQ; Wikipedia backgrounder], which allows Cubans to remain in the US when they reach US soil, but those stopped at sea are sent back home. The group of would-be immigrants was turned back because although they reached Seven Mile Bridge [Wikipedia backgrounder] in the Florida Keys, the bridge is no longer actually connected to land. The families of the deported Cubans filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] in January and during hearings in the case, Moreno appeared skeptical of the government's arguments [JURIST report].
Moreno said that the group was "removed to Cuba illegally" and gave the US government until March 30 to decide on the 15 Cubans' eligibility to acquire the necessary documentation to enter the US legally. It is unclear, however, whether Cuban President Fidel Castro would allow the group to leave Cuba. Moreno also specified that his decision was limited in scope and was not a ruling on the "wisdom" of the wet-foot, dry-foot policy. AP has more. Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald has local coverage.