Border Patrol Apprehend Record Number of Cubans Attempting to Illegally Enter Florida

by Bethany Blankley


Nearly every day, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, working with multiple law enforcement partners, apprehend Cubans attempting to enter Florida illegally. They’re also apprehending other foreign nationals, including sex offenders.

They’re doing so as U.S. Coast Guard crews continue to apprehend a record number of Cubans. In fiscal year 2022, they apprehended a record high 6,182 Cubans at sea compared to 49 in fiscal 2020.

U.S. Border Patrol Miami Sector Chief Patrol Agent Walter N. Slosar said Thursday that within the past 24 hours, working with local law enforcement, Border Patrol agents took into custody 80 Cubans after responding to four landings throughout the Florida Keys.

Miami Sector agents, operating out of seven stations, are responsible for patrolling 1,200 miles of coastal border in Florida.

The Florida Keys, a primary destinations for Cubans making a 90 nautical mile, four-hour journey, also falls under the jurisdiction of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, whose deputies are regularly involved in interdiction efforts.

On Tuesday, Border Patrol agents and sheriff’s deputies encountered 33 Cubans, including 26 men and seven women, who’d arrived on rustic vessels. They’re often made from scraps of wood or metal and poorly constructed, held together with straps of plastic or rope. Some are small 25-foot fishing vessels with makeshift motors.

On the same day, Border Patrol agents, working with Miami-Dade police officers, arrested a convicted sex offender, a previously deported Honduran national with a conviction for sexual battery with a minor, Slosar said.

On December 2, Border Patrol agents encountered 30 Cubans after responding to two landings in the Florida Keys. On December 1, Border Patrol agents responded to a landing at Sombrero Beach in Marathon and apprehended 25 Cubans, including one juvenile. All were taken into federal custody. The agents learned from questioning them that they’d departed from the Matanzas region of Cuba.

Slosar said on November 30, Border Patrol agents working with local law enforcement officers had again responded to multiple landings in the Florida Keys and encountered 44 Cubans, including six juveniles.

On November 28, Border Patrol agents apprehended 110 Cubans after responding to three separate landings in the Florida Keys. Also working with Border Patrol agents and the sheriff’s office were members of the U.S. Coast Guard, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission and CBP Air & Marine Patrol.

On the same day, Border Patrol agents saved two Cubans from drowning. The agents took “swift action,” Slosar said, by dropping a water rescue rope to save them and held onto it until a rescue boat arrived. Overall, in this operation, agents and supporting law enforcement partners rescued 18 people in the Florida Keys.

Slosar announced on November 26 that again, over a 48-hour period, Border Patrol agents and local law enforcement apprehended over 180 Cubans after responding to eight landings throughout the Florida Keys.

On the evening of November 25, Hollywood Police Department officers came across nine Cubans who arrived on a rustic vessel on Hollywood Beach and Border Patrol agents responded to apprehend them. The Cubans said they’d spent seven days at sea before attempting to illegally enter Florida.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Coast Guard is also busy interdicting human and drug smuggling at sea and apprehending foreign nationals attempting to illegally enter the U.S.

Since October 1, 2022, Coast Guard crews have apprehended a record number of Cubans: 2,723.

That’s after apprehending a record 6,182 in fiscal 2022 compared to apprehending 49 in fiscal 2020, according to Coast Guard data.

On November 30, the U.S. Coast Guard announced that its Cutter Resolute’s crew repatriated 192 Cubans after making 13 interdictions off Florida’s coast.

The Coast Guard, like BP, relies on the general public notifying them of any suspicious activity at sea, including groups arriving on rustic vessels.

Of the 13 interdictions the Coast Guard made, five resulted from calls made by general public. These were in the vicinity of Davis Reef, roughly three miles south of Duck Key, in the vicinity of Alligator Reef Lighthouse, about five miles south of Vaca Key, and about 45 miles south of Marquesas Key.

In multiple incidents, Coast Guard Sector Key West watch standers were notified by Coast Guard Cutter Pablo Valent’s crew, by a Coast Guard maritime safety and security team, and by a Coast Guard Air Station Miami HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircrew.

The majority of migrant vessels identified in these interdiction efforts were spotted south of Marquesas Key, about 20 miles west of Key West in Monroe County. Another vessel was identified about 20 miles south of Rodriguez Key, which is east of Key Largo.

“Coast Guard and our partners are patrolling Marquesas Key and the Dry Tortugas to stop illegal landings at the national wildlife refuge and national park islands,” Lt. Travis Poulos of Coast Guard District Seven said in a November 30 statement announcing the most recent interdiction efforts. “Those stopped at sea will be repatriated to their country of origin or departure.”

Everyone who is apprehended is given food, water, shelter and medical attention if needed, the Coast Guard says, before they are processed for repatriation. The Coast Guard encourages individuals and family members already living in the U.S. who are concerned about possible relatives interdicted at sea to contact their local U.S. representative.

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Bethany Blankley is a regular contributor to The Center Square.
Photo “U.S. Customs and Border Protection” by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.


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