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Cubans deported from bridge reach U.S. on 2nd try

Story Highlights

• January landing on detached bridge disqualified group for asylum
• Judge later ruled group's repatriation illegal
• Relative says some of Friday's arrivals were in January group
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MIAMI, Florida (AP) -- A group of Cubans deported in January after nearly reaching the United States landed Friday at close to the same spot, a bridge in the Florida Keys that authorities earlier ruled wasn't American soil, a relative said.

The people who beached around 3:30 a.m. at the new Seven Mile Bridge's south end near a state park in the lower Florida Keys had not been identified, Monroe County sheriff's spokeswoman Becky Herrin said. They were being taken to a Border Patrol station for processing.

Mariela Conesa said her teenage son, husband and five others in the January group were among the new arrivals. "I am so, so happy," said Conesa, who hadn't seen her son since she left Cuba by homemade boat in 1998.

Under the U.S. wet-foot, dry-foot policy, Cubans who reach U.S. soil are normally allowed to stay, while those caught at sea are usually returned home.

The U.S. deported the 15 who arrived in January because the Old Seven Mile Bridge is missing several chunks and the section where they landed no longer touches land. Their relatives sued, and U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno ruled they should have been allowed to stay. Federal officials agreed to give 14 of the migrants visas; the 15th was repatriated because he may have had a criminal record, Reuters reported.

Ramon Saul Sanchez, of the Miami-based Democracy Movement, which represents some of the relatives, said Cuban officials recently told members of the original group that they would not be permitted to leave Cuba for another four years because theirs was such a high-profile case.

"Sadly, the rest are still in Cuba," he said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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