CBS4 via AP
A group of Cubans sails toward the Florida Straits on a modified 1959 Buick on Feb. 3.
updated 2/11/2004 6:46:26 PM ET 2004-02-11T23:46:26

A Cuban family who twice tried to reach the United States in old vehicles converted into boats won a chance Wednesday to make their case for asylum in this country.

The federal government agreed not to send them back to Cuba until there is a decision on their request.

Instead of being immediately sent back to Cuba, like eight other people who went to sea with them in a converted 1959 Buick, Luis Grass Rodriguez, his wife and their 4-year-old son will be held at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, the Department of Homeland Security said.

The family will be kept there pending “a detailed examination” of their fears of political persecution, the department said.

The Coast Guard intercepted the 11 Cubans at sea off the Florida Keys on Feb. 4 as they were crossing the 90-mile-wide Florida Strait.

With few exceptions, U.S. policy allows Cubans who reach U.S. soil to stay but turns back anyone intercepted at sea.

Grass family attorney William Sanchez said Wednesday’s decision means the family will be safe from retribution by the Cuban government.

“Thank God,” he said.

The family is being treated differently because Grass had already filed a request for a U.S. visa after the family was intercepted aboard a seagoing Chevrolet pickup last July and sent back to Cuba.

The Buick and the Chevy had been fitted with flotation devices and propellers welded to their driveshafts.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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