DeSantis Details Alarming Find Aboard Haitian Migrant Boat Seized Off Florida Coast

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared that the state’s law enforcement had stopped a boat that was approaching the Florida coast with several Haitian migrants, along with weapons, narcotics, and night vision equipment.

“Our Florida Fish and Wildlife offices interdicted a vessel that had 25 illegal immigrants, potential illegal immigrants from Haiti in their boat. In their vessel, they had firearms, they had drugs, they had night vision gear, and were boating very recklessly, which would potentially endanger other folks,” DeSantis said, adding that the interdiction had occurred “recently” in the last few weeks and was “tragic.”

“That vessel was interdicted near the Sebastian Inlet and those illegal aliens were turned over to the Coast Guard for deportation,” he said, as noted by Fox News.

DeSantis announced this at a press conference in which he signed three pieces of legislation to deter illegal immigration into the Sunshine State.

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In response to the unrest in Haiti and the possibility of an increase in migration from the conflict-ridden nation via the sea, the Republican governor earlier this week announced an increase in manpower and aircraft to the Florida coast.

Gangs have taken over the capital, burning police stations and attacking the main airport, resulting in a marked increase in violence in the Caribbean nation. Additionally, gangs have broken into some of the biggest prisons, freeing thousands of prisoners.

According to DeSantis’ office, the deployment in Florida consists of 48 more National Guard members with four additional helicopters, 39 Florida Department of Law Enforcement officers, 30 more Florida Highway Patrol officers with aircraft and drones, and 23 more Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers with eight more seacrafts.

DeSantis emphasized on Friday that this was an increase in enforcement rather than a brand-new operation and that it had been going on for some time. He said that since January 2023, authorities have helped the Coast Guard stop 670 ships that were carrying more than 13,500 undocumented immigrants.

“The message is the last thing you should want to do is get on a boat and think you’re going to come through from any of these islands to get to the state of Florida,” DeSantis said. “The most likely scenario is you’ll be stopped, and you will be returned to your country of origin.”

“It’s a hazardous journey, it’s not worth doing, and we have the resources to continue to keep the people of Florida safe,” DeSantis added.

While the Pentagon is “alert” to the possibility of a mass migration event, Rebecca Zimmerman, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Hemispheric Affairs, told lawmakers last week that it has not yet seen a significant number of migrants.

“I think you’re right that the driving conditions in Haiti could very well press more people,” she told Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla. “We recently approved some additional assistance we could provide to the Coast Guard.”

The Department of Homeland Security has also stated that it is keeping an eye on the situation, emphasizing that the Caribbean’s migration flows are still “low.” It also warned that those who cross risk having their passports confiscated and deported.

“U.S. policy is to return noncitizens who do not have a fear of persecution or torture or a legal basis to enter the United States. Those interdicted at sea are subject to immediate repatriation according to our longstanding policy and procedures. The United States returns or repatriates migrants interdicted at sea to The Bahamas, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti,” a spokesperson said.

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Additionally, DeSantis signed three immigration-related laws on Friday. There was one that raised the maximum penalty for unlicensed drivers.

Another bill strengthens the penalties for crimes committed by undocumented immigrants who re-enter the country after being deported, and a third bill declares that no court system may accept identification provided to undocumented immigrants by other states.

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