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By Vanessa Arrington

Cuban migrants sent back to the island this year after reaching an abandoned bridge in the Florida Keys said Monday they would not risk their lives again like the other half of their group, which took a second sea voyage to the United States last week.

Noel Reyes, one of the eight remaining ``bridge'' migrants in Cuba, said he was thrilled the others arrived safely but would wait to leave the island legally.

``I already risked my life once, why should I go and commit madness again?'' he asked.

The group has been waiting several months for permission to leave by the Cuban government. They received U.S. visas to emigrate after a federal judge ruled against the original Department of Homeland Security decision that sent the group back to Cuba.

Under the U.S. government's wet-foot, dry-foot policy, Cuban immigrants picked up at sea are sent back to the island, while those who reach land are generally allowed to stay. The Department of Homeland Security declared the bridge was not U.S. soil.

On Monday, Reyes, three other men in their 30s and a couple with their 3-year-old boy traveled from the province of Matanzas to the capital to meet with U.S. officials. They said they also planned to check in at the Cuban immigration offices.

They all said they knew the rest of the group was leaving last week, but decided against it for safety reasons. Emiliano Batista, 32, said it also made no sense given that they now have U.S. visas.

``Now that I have this possibility, to leave legally, why give that up?'' said Batista. He said that if he goes with government permission, he will be able to return to Cuba to visit his family.

Batista's partner, Rasselyn Casanova, has also applied for a visa. She has never tried to leave Cuba by boat - in fact, Batista's 18 attempted departures from the island have caused the couple to split up on several occasions.

The original group of 15 migrants was sent back to Cuba in January after arriving at the bridge in a makeshift boat. The repatriation created an uproar in South Florida's Cuban exile community.

The Cuban government has never publicly commented on the details of the case, but frequently criticizes the U.S. government's migration policy for Cubans, saying it encourages them to undertake risky sea voyages with the hope of obtaining American residency.

``This has been so difficult, but we have to be patient,'' Batista said. ``I just hope the government doesn't punish us for what the other group did.''

Source: Guardian Unlimited

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