Feds Intercept 176 Haitian Migrants in Sailboat off Florida Coast

Sailboat2
DHS

A Customs and Border Protection flight crew detected a grossly overloaded vessel 25 miles northeast of Anguilla Cay, Bahamas. The aircrew notified the Coast Guard on Monday night and coordinated a joint interdiction. Personnel onboard the Coast Guard Cutter Paul Clark intercepted the vessel near Key Largo, Florida, and discovered 176 Haitians aboard.

Upon arrival, the Paul Clark’s crew provided flotation devices to the migrants to prevent loss of life. The weather conditions at the time could have proven deadly. Wind conditions were over 20 miles per hour and waves were 4-6 feet at the time.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the vessel sailed without basic lifesaving equipment or navigation lights.

Once the vessel was inside the reef line off the Florida coast, a Coast Guard Station Islamorada boat crew and other law enforcement took the migrants into custody.

Chief Warrant Officer James Kinney, the Command Duty Officer for the Coast Guard’s Sector Key West, described the risks involved: “It is extremely dangerous to navigate the Florida Straits in an un-seaworthy vessel, especially off the Florida Keys where the water is extra treacherous with shoals and reefs,” Kinney says. “Thanks to the quick coordination among so many different agencies, no lives were lost during this interdiction,” he emphasized.

Although the Coast Guard routinely returns persons interdicted at sea aboard un-seaworthy vessels to their country of origin, at least 10 of the Haitians were transported to a hospital due to symptoms of dehydration.

According to the Coast Guard, 557 Haitian migrants have been intercepted at sea since October 2021. In Fiscal Year 2021, the agency located and interdicted 1,527 Haitians under the same circumstances — more than any year since 2017.

Customs and Border Protection arrested nearly 50,000 Haitian migrants nationwide in Fiscal Year 2021.

Randy Clark
 is a 32-year veteran of the United States Border Patrol.  Prior to his retirement, he served as the Division Chief for Law Enforcement Operations, directing operations for nine Border Patrol Stations within the Del Rio, Texas, Sector. Follow him on Twitter @RandyClarkBBTX.

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