| Crime |

20 Arrested for Pretending to Be Cubans to Get Immigration Benefits

Twenty immigrants who were trying to pretend they had dry feet were caught red-handed. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement rounded up the suspects yesterday for posing as Cuban immigrants in order to take advantage of the U.S. amnesty policy. The arrests are part of a growing trend in which immigrants buy forged Cuban documents to claim amnesty in America.

"These individuals came here seeking the freedom and benefits this country provides to Cuban nationals. The operation identified and addressed a vulnerability in the application process," Alysa Erichs, special agent in charge of ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Miami, said in a statement. "These arrests by HSI should send a clear message that we will target anyone who tries to obtain immigration benefits fraudulently."

The arrests were part of Operation Havana Gateway. Because the United States allows most Cubans who flee to America the chance to pursue citizenship a year after they arrive, forged Cuban birth certificates are now apparently a hot commodity on the black market.

"Fraud cannot be the foundation of one's pursuit of the American dream," U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer said. "By committing immigration fraud, these defendants sought to cheat the immigration system and those who immigrate to this country lawfully. We will continue to pursue and punish those who unfairly and fraudulently cheat the immigration system."

Most of those arrested were living in South Florida, but suspects were also rounded up in Jacksonville and Naples. The nationalities of the suspects have not yet been released.

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