DANIA BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - Deputies detained 11 migrants, including small children, after they came ashore in Pompano Beach, and about a dozen migrants were spotted running to shore near Key Biscayne hours later, in what became a busy day for authorities patrolling South Florida waterways.
Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to the scene at the Hillsboro Inlet Marina, located along the 2700 block of North Riverside Drive, at approximately 10:50 a.m., Monday.
Witnesses said deputies surrounded the migrants as they pulled into the marina.
“They were about to run aground. The BSO waved them off of the jetty,” said a witness who identified himself as Chris, “and after they waved them off of the jetty, they came through the inlet.”
“Three guys bailed off the boat. A van was waiting here; they jumped in the van, and they took off,” said witness Eric Fisher, “and then the cops showed up all behind that.”
Late Monday afternoon, witnesses said they spotted a group of migrants coming ashore near Bill Baggs State Park.
“I was looking in the ocean, and I saw a boat, and there were a lot of people there in the boat,” said a woman, “and I don’t know, it was very, I don’t know, emotional.”
Cellphone video captured the migrants’ rickety vessel as it came ashore. Seconds later, about a dozen men and women jumped onto the beach and ran into the dunes.
“It was amazing, it was incredible,” said a beachgoer as he spoke through a translator. “Finally they got here, and they were able to get off the raft running, running, and they all escaped. They got to the land of the free.”
A closer look at the makeshift boat showed its mast appeared to be nothing more than a narrow tree trunk. The hull held a single life preserver, clothing, cans and bottles, and a bucket with the markings of a Cuban company.
Back in Pompano Beach, BSO officials said they detained 11 migrants from Trinidad, Jamaica and Haiti. One of them was taken to the hospital for treatment.
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officials said these migrants were part of a smuggling operation.
“I think it’s really sad. Obviously, they went all the way through all this struggle, obviously are escaping some pretty bad stuff,” said witness Kelly Marquardt.
7News cameras captured an officer as he tied the shoelaces of a boy wearing a blue jacket who was among those taken into custody.
Minutes earlier, a woman on board a small recreational boat was comforted by an older child, and the little boy helped by the officer was seen sipping a bottle of water, as other migrants sat ashore in handcuffs.
Witnesses speculated the migrants hoped they would go unnoticed on the busy waterways and blend in with other Memorial Day boaters.
What did not go unnoticed was a woman who looked like an exhausted mother and the boy in the blue jacket standing by her side. Despite the heat, the child kept on his jacket.
“It’s heartbreaking to see these people sitting there, kind of like, what do you do to risk your lives to actually try to get here that badly?” said Marquardt. “It must be pretty bad.”
“It’s always a big problem, when you see [boats] empty, and you call the Coast Guard and you ask them, ‘Did you pick anybody up?’ And they say, ‘No,'” said Chris, “and you’ll never find them. You’ll never know what happened.”
In this case, everybody transported for processing will likely be sent back to their home countries.
CBP officials did not confirm whether or not anyone escaped.
“We also welcome people, so I don’t know. How are we supposed to figure out what to do with these people who are sitting there in a terrible situation?” said Marquardt.
The U.S. Coast Guard said they have interdicted more than 300 Cuban migrants since October 2020.
Last week, Coast Guard crews led an extensive search for survivors of a capsized boat off Key West. Eight Cuban migrants were rescued, two bodies were recovered, and 10 others were never found.
Dr. Giselle Elgarresta Rios, the founding director of Barry University’s Institute for Imigration Studies, said many Cubans choose to sail to the U.S., despite the risks, in search of a better life.
“They want to leave so badly that they have to go through that journey, knowing that they might not make it,” she said.
Monday night, CBP officials said they have not caught up with the migrants spotted near Bill Baggs State Park.
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