Federal & state authorities also intercept Ecuadorians & Cubans

a us border patrol officer standing in front of a lot of lights

Cases of migrant landings largely dissipated for a number of months in the Florida Keys — until recently, when law enforcement responded to cases two consecutive days in the Upper Keys. 

One of the larger cases in recent memory unfolded during the morning of Oct. 23, when U.S. Border Patrol agents and Florida Highway Patrol troopers responded to a vessel landing in Key Largo. According to Walter Slosar, CBP chief patrol agent, 19 Chinese nationals and three adult Ecuadorians were aboard the vessel. But the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reported that troopers assisted CBP to apprehend three Ecuadorians and 17 subjects from China, of whom 11 were men and six were women. 

Florida Highway Patrol said the incident occurred around MM 109 in Key Largo. Troopers assisted U.S. Border Patrol, which has served as the lead in migrant cases. In recent years, the federal agency lacked the necessary resources to adequately respond to the droves of Cubans and Haitians arriving to the Keys’ shore. It drew the hand of Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier in the year, following a large Haitian migrant landing in the Upper Keys, as he activated the Florida National Guard. As a result, troopers across the state, Florida Fish & Wildlife officers and equipment and Florida Department of Law Enforcement were deployed to the Keys. 

“As the negative impacts of Biden’s lawless immigration policies continue unabated, the burden of the Biden Administration’s failure falls on local law enforcement who lack the resources to deal with the crisis,” DeSantis said at the time of the activation.

Dave Kerner, Florida Department of Transportation executive director, issued a statement Oct. 24 on the recent incident in Key Largo, blasting the Biden Administration for what he called its failed border security. 

“Our Florida Highway Patrol troopers stand ready to protect the U.S. border, whether in the southwestern United States or here off the coast of Florida,” he said. “This detention of Chinese nationals shows how an open border allows individuals from enemy nations to enter our communities.” 

The non-U.S. citizens are in Border Patrol’s custody. 

The day before, U.S. Customs & Border Patrol responded to a migrant landing in Islamorada. According to Slosar, three Cubans arrived on a homemade vessel during the early morning.

U.S. Rep. Carlos Gimenez has requested more information from Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to assess who these individuals are and any threats they may pose. Gimenez said his priority is to protect the border and national security, especially for Florida Keys residents. 

Gimenez, who sits on the Homeland Security Committee and the new Select Committee on China, said he’s received information that the Chinese Communist Party is gaining more influence in South Florida.

“They’ve got activities going on in Cuba. They’re also doing a lot of infrastructure work in the Bahamas,” Gimenez said. All of this is very concerning to me, and why are they trying to sneak into the country? What was their purpose?”

On Oct. 22, U.S. Customs & Border Patrol responded to a migrant landing in Islamorada. According to Slosar, three Cubans arrived on a homemade vessel during the early morning. 

Cubans arrived on this wooden vessel on Oct. 22 in Islamorada, according to CBP. CBP/Contributed

Jim McCarthy
Jim McCarthy is one of the many Western New Yorkers who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 4-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. Jim is a sports fanatic who loves to watch football, hockey, mixed martial arts and golf. He also enjoys time with family and his new baby boy, Lucas, who arrived Oct. 4, 2022.