TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — In early August, the Carnival Cruise Line ship Paradise rescued two boats of Cuban refugees in just three weeks.
The ship first rescued 24 people on a boat adrift off the Cuban coast.
The people were taken on the ship and given food, water and medical care and then brought to port in Tampa, where they were turned over to family members as they waited for an immigration hearing to determine their status.
Lazaro Omar Morejon is one of the people rescued at sea.
“By the time the cruise ship picked us up, we had no water and little food,” Omar Morejon said.
For the people on the cruise ship, the rescue was just a brief pause in their vacation.
For the 24 people on the boat, it was a life-saving and life-changing event.
“The problem for us is that we took an engine with us and then that engine did not respond to us and that was when we were adrift for three or four days,” Omar Morejon said.
He and the others risked their lives for the trip because they say the conditions in Cuba are very bad.
“Cubans don’t have opportunities at all. I’ve been working there in Cuba for 3 years and since I was 17 and I’ll never have what I’m going to have here,” Omar Morejon said.
He is not alone. The U.S. government says more than 22,000 people have crossed the U.S. border with Mexico in the last year.
When the 24 docked in Tampa, they knew their lives would be very different.
“Seeing the lights, seeing how everything was, we bristled. And the only thing we said was that they deport us, that they leave us here. I didn’t believe it and wept with joy,” Omar Morejon said.