KEY BISCAYNE, FLA. (WSVN) - Federal authorities have taken three dozen migrants into custody after two separate groups came ashore in South Florida, and they said seven landings have taken place in the region over the past 48 hours.
Speaking with 7News on Thursday, Assistant Chief Patrol Agent Adam Hoffner with U.S. Border Patrol Miami Sector addressed the multiple landings.
“All of those were encounters that made landfall on makeshift or homemade-style vessels,” he said.
According to U.S. Border Patrol officials, 26 Cuban migrants, 24 men and two women, made their way in a makeshift vessel to the coast of Key Biscayne with water jugs and snacks, early Thursday morning.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue received a call around 3 a.m. about a woman in Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park who was dehydrated. The park was closed at when they got the alert.
“In reference to a female, dehydrated, Bill Baggs State Park, 1200 Crandon Blvd.,” a first responder said on Broadcastify.
Fire rescue officials arrived at the scene to tend to the dehydrated woman’s medical needs.
7Skyforce showed the scene from above as the boat touched the sand, just feet away from the historic Cape Florida Lighthouse as an onlooker recorded video.
The migrants’ vessel had the word “freedom” in Spanish, as well as the Bible verse, Genesis:7, painted on the sides.
Two U.S. Customs and Border Patrol vans responded to the scene shortly after officials were notified of the situation.
Miami-Dade Police accompanied the agency inside the park and exited the park with those migrants in custody.
Of the seven groups that made landfall over the past two days, officials said, six of them arrived near the Florida Keys.
Thursday morning, Border Patrol agents took eight men and two women into custody hours after they came ashore in Marathon.
Witness William Gonzalez said he recorded cellphone video as he watched the landing on Key Colony Beach.
“Everyone was just oaring as fast as they can to get to the shoreline,” he said. “They were just very grateful to be here, crying with joy and kissing the ground that they came upon when they landed, very excited to be here.”
They are among the lucky ones. In 2021, the Coast Guard confirmed 64 migrant deaths at sea. Those lost at sea are likely an even larger number.
“We just find debris or an empty boat, and we search, because that’s what we do,” said Coast Guard public affairs specialist Nicole Groll. “We saturate the area, and we hope that we find someone alive.”
“We have seen an increase in the past few days. During the last two weeks, the weather from the storms and the storm surge, the weather was disruptive to some of the maritime traffic, but since then, we have seen this recent increase over the past few days,” said Hoffner.
Coast Guard officials said that for the fiscal year of 2022, they have prevented roughly 6,100 Cuban migrants from reaching South Florida shores. In October, that month was 66.
To put the situation into perspective, Border Patrol agents said they’ve seen about a 300% increase of migrant landings between 2021 and 2022.
It’s likely the migrants who came ashore on Thursday will be extradited back to Cuba. Over the past few days, Border Patrol agents said they’ve encountered 97 Cuban migrants over the past few days.
Officials stress taking to the sea is just too risky.
“People are coming, and we are just doing our best to make sure they get picked up before something bad happens, like losing their life,” said Groll.
“This time of year, it’s an increasingly dangerous journey. Migrants find themselves in difficult situations, and we encourage migrants, any individual thinking about the venture to not take to the sea,” said Hoffner.
Gonzalez said it’s clear the men and women who arrived in Marathon are thankful to have survived the journey.
“They didn’t run, they just wanted our help. I’m glad they made it ashore, and I’m glad we were able to help them out,” he said. “Hopefully they will be processed and go to their families soon.”
Thursday’s landings happened just days after 55 migrants were repatriated to Cuba.
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