Video: 114 migrants make landfall in the Florida Keys on Feb. 9.
TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Since Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Jan. 6 executive order to handle an influx of migrants was signed, Florida law enforcement and emergency response agents have intercepted more than 2,600 migrants in the state.
According to new numbers from the Florida Division of Emergency Management, 2,670 migrants have been interdicted.
On Jan. 27, there had been 1,060 migrants apprehended during the ongoing influx of activity in Florida and along the state coast.
Most have come to the Florida Keys. The influx situation in Monroe County is what prompted DeSantis’ executive order in January, activating the Florida National Guard to respond to the crisis.
Migrants coming to Florida by water face what the U.S. Coast Guard calls risks that American citizens would find “unfathomable,” with the individuals and families trying to come to the U.S. by boat or raft, among other methods.
As previously reported, the Coast Guard says those migrants face severe weather, drowning risks, and “general unpredictability.” They use boats amid those dangerous conditions to escape their home countries, according to USCG.
In early 2023, migrant surges to areas like the Florida Keys from Cuba, Haiti, and other countries created an influx of people fleeing their homes to “escape poverty, violence, human trafficking, and persecution are a few realities,” according to USCG Cmdr. Ray Caro.
Since Feb. 20, USCG’s 7th District Headquarters in Miami reported that hundreds of migrants have been repatriated to Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba.
Additional actions were taken by the Florida Legislature during a February special legislative session, repealing and replacing a previous migrant relocation program. DeSantis signed the bill into law on Feb. 15.
According to FDEM, as of March 1, DeSantis’ executive order has led to a variety of responses by state agencies, including:
Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM)
- FDEM established a base camp and command post in Marathon for responding personnel. The base camp houses members of the Florida Highway Patrol, the National Guard, FDLE, and FWC.
- FDEM is deploying teams to conduct assessments of the regulated disposal of vessels and coordinate preparedness and response to foreign animal disease risks into the state.
- FDEM is coordinating the removal and disposal of migrant vessels.
- FDEM is leading the coordination of state assets for the mass migration response, including:
- Electricity to assist with power to command posts;
- Pallets of bottled water and Meals Ready-to-Eat (MREs) to be used by responding personnel.
- Night vision goggles and forward-looking infrared units for responding personnel to safely navigate and patrol waterways at night.
- A large vessel platform to assist responding personnel in the detection of migrants at sea, search and rescues, long-distance travel and travel in inclement weather.
- 350 personal floatation devices for use in the response and during interdictions.
Florida National Guard
- The Florida National Guard has 6 aircraft on mission and has conducted 471 flights for a total of 1,109 flight hours.
- The Florida National Guard has mobilized 150 National Guardsman to coordinate operational efforts with the U.S. Coast Guard and FWC aviation teams.
- The Florida National Guard will bolster FWC marine patrol to support water interdictions and ensure the safety of migrants attempting to reach Florida through the Florida Straits.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)
- A total of 150 officers and support personnel have deployed to emergency migration response, and recently a seventh wave of 15 additional FWC officers have arrived to provide additional support throughout the Florida Keys.
- FWC has tasked five large platform offshore patrol vessels in addition to maritime assets already in place. Included in those assets is the 85’ vessel Gulf Sentry with six crew members. They are patrolling and assisting U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection with migrant landings.
- FWC Aviation is conducting routine flights in support of local, state and federal partners and is coordinating with the U.S. Coast Guard, Florida National Guard and FHP air assets.
- FWC is working in conjunction with FDEM to assess and document derelict migrant vessels. FWC is documenting and processing vessels on state waters and FDEM is documenting and processing vessels on dry land.
- Currently, FWC does not anticipate the need to institute any additional recreational boating restrictions in the region. For everyone’s safety, recreational boaters are cautioned to remain clear of any suspected migrant vessel and alert authorities to their location.
- If an abandoned migrant vessel lands on private property, the property owner is not responsible for its removal. The state will remove these vessels free of charge. Report an abandoned vessel to the FWC at 888-404-3922.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE)
- FDLE has nearly two dozen members deployed in Monroe County
- FDLE aviation assets are assisting with patrolling the waters.
- FDLE is coordinating Florida’s law enforcement response, similar to their active role in hurricanes, and is in contact with state and local partners to ensure they have the resources needed to manage the current mass migration situation.
- As migrants are more at-risk to human trafficking and other crimes, FDLE is helping to gather and provide intelligence and conducting investigations and assisting as requested by federal, state and local partners.
- FDLE agents are conducting interviews and gathering intelligence in conjunction with US Customs and Border Patrol and Homeland Security Investigations.
Florida Highway Patrol (FHP)
- FHP has deployed 30 troopers, six unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with drone pilots, two fixed-wing aircraft with downlink capabilities and one mobile command bus in support of ongoing operations.