Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition

114 Haitian migrants arrive on rickety boat in Florida Keys


TAVERNIER — Some 114 Haitian migrants made landfall in the Florida Keys early Thursday in the latest large group making their way to the state from Haiti and Cuba by water in recent months, the U.S. Border Patrol said.

Border patrol and law enforcemen­t responded to the site in Tavernier, south of Key Largo in the island chain, early Thursday, Chief Patrol Agent Walter N. Slosar said in a tweet. First responders were assisting the migrants at the scene, he said.

Slosar also tweeted a video of a rickety boat tied up along the rocky shore in Tavernier.

On Wednesday, another 26 migrants were taken into custody after making landfall on Marquesas Keys, a string of uninhabite­d islands off Key West.

In early January, the Biden administra­tion announced a new policy of turning back many migrants at the Texas border while also offering a new kind of humanitari­an parole to Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguan­s and Venezuelan­s.

Federal officials said by late January land crossings by migrants of those nationalit­ies had slowed to a trickle. They also have said they expect the new policy to deter sea crossings, partly because migrants who arrive illegally can become ineligible for the new parole program.

People from those nations have been eagerly applying for the new program.

Still, dangerous sea crossings have continued by Cuban and Haitian migrants as inflation soars and economic conditions deteriorat­e in their home countries. In the four months since Oct. 1, the Coast Guard has intercepte­d more than 5,321 migrants at sea. That compares with 6,182 for the entire previous year, and 838 for fiscal year 2021.

Those intercepte­d at sea are generally returned, but the fate of those who arrive on Florida shores can depend in part on their nationalit­y. Haitian immigrants who arrive illegally get sent back more often despite severe economic hardship and rife political violence at home.

Because the U.S. and Cuba do not have formal diplomatic relations, it is difficult for the American governor to return Cuban migrants.

Often, they are released to relatives in South Florida but given an order that requires them to contact federal immigratio­n authoritie­s periodical­ly to confirm their address and status. They are allowed to get work permits, driver’s licenses and Social Security numbers, but cannot apply for permanent residency or citizenshi­p.

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