About 100 Haitians arrive in the Florida Keys on overloaded boat
MIAMI — An overloaded migrant sailboat with at least 100 people from Haiti on board arrived Thursday morning in the Florida Keys.
The vessel came near shore in the Upper Keys community of Tavernier, between Key Largo and the Village of Islamorada, according to law enforcement sources.
The group is the first large migrant group to arrive in weeks, following a state and federal effort to try to stop boats at sea before they reach the island chain.
Sources say mostly men were on the boat, but there were some women and children.
Last month, the Biden administration announced new border rules. Under the new rules, asylum-seekers need to seek pre-authorization to enter the United States via a Customs and Border Protection App and people from Haiti, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela can apply from their home countries if they have a U.S. based financial sponsor, pass health and background checks and arrange their own air travel to be approved under the initiative.
Department of Homeland Security
Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who visited Miami last month to tout the program, warned that Haitians and Cubans who arrive in the United States by boat will not be eligible to apply for the parole process. They also face a five-year ban from the United States.
Despite the program’s announcement, there have been at least two boatloads of Haitians who have made it into U.S. territorial waters in recent weeks. This latest arrival of Haitians coincide with a visit by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk to Haiti for a twoday visit.
Türk arrived in Portau-Prince on Wednesday, where he met with Prime Minister Ariel Henry and members of civil society to discuss the going gang violence and deteriorating human rights condition in the country. He plans to travel to Haiti’s northeast border with the Dominican Republic Thursday to look at the migration crisis unfolding there.
Türk has been a vocal critic of deportations to Haiti, and late last year called for them to stop given the country’s current human rights and humanitarian crisis.
“Unremitting armed violence and systematic human rights violations in Haiti do not currently allow for the safe, dignified and sustainable return of Haitians to the country,” he said in November. “I reiterate my call to all countries in the region, including the Dominican Republic, to halt the deportation of Haitians.”
Along with the Biden administration’s stepped-up efforts to prevent migrants from reaching U.S. shores, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order in early January activating the National Guard and sending officers from several state law enforcement agencies to the Keys to patrol the air and water.
The combined effort worked, and arrivals of small Cuban migrant vessels have gone from several a day to days going by before a single boat makes landfall. But some are still getting through.
The Border Patrol said a group of 26 Cuban migrants arrived Wednesday on a homemade vessel on a beach in the Marquesas, a group of uninhabited islands west of Key West.