(The Center Square) – A record number of foreign nationals attempting to enter Florida illegally by sea continue to be apprehended by federal, state and local law enforcement agents who are breaking up violent altercations, rescuing people from overloaded and sinking boats, and arresting MS-13 gang members and child sex offenders – the majority of whom are single military age men.
U.S. Coast Guard crews have apprehended a record number of Cubans attempting to enter Florida illegally. Since Oct. 1, 2022, they’ve apprehended 5,740 Cubans. That's nearly as many as they did in all of fiscal 2022 – 6,182.
Recent key apprehensions include Border Patrol agents, working with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, arresting an MS-13 gang member and Nicaraguan national in Fort Myers, Florida, on Feb. 21. He’d recently been convicted of trespassing and criminal mischief, Miami Border Patrol Sector Chief Patrol Agent Walter N. Slosar said.
Just a week before, Border Patrol agents “arrested a previously deported Mexican national with an extensive rap sheet that includes a sex offense against a child,” Slosar said.
On Monday, U.S. Custom and Border Protection Air & Marine Operations reported that CBP agents, working with Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and U.S. Coast Guard Southeast, interdicted a vessel near Lake Worth that was overloaded with 50 foreign nationals on board. CBP-AMO said, “Overloaded and non-seaworthy vessels often lead to tragedy for migrants on the seas. AMO crews work together with local, state, and federal partners to identify and stop dangerous maritime human smuggling events like the one below.”
On Sunday, Feb. 26, USCG Cutter Isaac Mayo's crew repatriated 64 Cubans after interdicting them off of Florida’s coast. “Taking to the sea may disqualify you for the new parole programs,” USCG Southeast tweeted, instead encouraging foreign nationals to “use safe and legal means of coming to the U.S.”
On Saturday, USCG Station Islamorada’s crew stopped single, military-aged men from “illegally landing on Siesta Key,” it reported.
On the 24th, USCG crews patrolling the Florida Straits and Windward and Mona Passes prevented over 235 foreign nationals from entering the U.S. illegally by sea in one week from Feb. 17 to 24, the USCG announced.
On Friday, USCG Cutter Charles David Jr.'s crew repatriated 38 Cubans; on Thursday, they repatriated 29 Cubans. Also on Thursday, USCG Station Marathon’s crew apprehended foreign nationals on a rustic vessel about 2 miles off Key Colony Beach.
"Our crews patrol around the clock to do our best to be there when the weather changes and you don't lose your life," Lt. Peter Hutchison, Coast Guard District Seven, said.
On Feb. 23, a Marathon, Florida-based 41’ Coastal Interceptor crew and a USCG Southeast crew stopped a vessel carrying foreign nationals who were involved in a “violent confrontation.” Agents “de-escalated the dangerous situation,” transferred 17 people to U.S. Coast Guard teams and provided medical care to two individuals, CBP-AMO said.
Also on Feb. 23, Border Patrol agents and law enforcement partners responded to 22 Cubans landing at Dry Tortugas National Park who’d arrived on a rustic vessel.
On the 17th, Border Patrol agents and law enforcement partners responded to 18 Cubans landing in Key West near Ft. Zachary Taylor State Park who’d arrived on a rustic vessel. In another instance, CBP-AMO crew rescued foreign nationals from a sinking homemade vessel.
“The weather in the Florida Straits is grossly unpredictable,” USCG Southeast said. “Weather reports from your local news outlet or app doesn't necessarily report offshore conditions. The people rescued below were fortunate our [CBP-AMO crew] partners got to them right before their vessel sank.”