CUBAN MIGRANTS RESCUED FROM AN UNINHABITED UPPER KEYS ISLAND

a group of people standing on the side of a road
Florida Highway Patrol troopers and Monroe County Sheriff’s Office assist federal authorities on a migrant landing involving 19 Cubans. They were rescued off an uninhabited island off Key Largo and brought to an area near MM 97. CONTRIBUTED

A group of Cuban migrants made landfall on an uninhabited Upper Keys island after sailing the treacherous waters off the Florida Keys.

A chug carrying 19 Cuban migrants sail the waters off the Florida Keys on April 23. The vessel landed at Rodriguez Key off Key Largo. CBP/Contributed

Federal, state and local authorities responded to the maritime landing, as U.S. Customs & Border Patrol and Coast Guard rescued the migrants from the north side of Rodriguez Key during the afternoon hours of April 23. They were subsequently transported to land near MM 97 in Key Largo where Florida Highway Patrol troopers and Monroe County Sheriff’s deputies assisted federal authorities. The vessel contained 17 males and one female.

In March, Gov. Ron DeSantis deployed more than 130 Florida State guardsmen to South Florida and the Keys in response to potential influx of Haitian migrants fleeing gang violence. FHP troopers, Florida Fish & Wildlife officers and Florida National Guard members were also deployed to assist federal authorities with migrant landings. 

The Keys haven’t seen large vessels carrying Haitian migrants, however, as compared to 2023 when local authorities confronted a number of landings involving hundreds of Haitian and Cuban migrants.

The island chain has witnessed several landings among Cuban migrants in recent weeks. 

Last weekend, U.S Customs & Border patrol agents responded to a migrant landing in the Marquesas Keys. According to Samuel Briggs II, chief patrol agent, authorities encountered 21 Cuban migrants.

The people were taken into Border Patrol custody and processed for removal proceedings. CBP agents received assistance from the Homeland Security Task Force – Southeast, a Department of Homeland Security team made up of federal, state and local partners. The task force patrols the Florida Straits, Windward and Mona Passages to prevent and deter unlawful maritime voyages to the U.S.  

“Our DHS-led Task Force partners are postured to prevent and deter irregular maritime migration, respond to dangerous voyages of unseaworthy and overloaded vessels, and conduct humanitarian assistance at sea,” said Rear Adm. Douglas Schofield, HSTF-SE director and Coast Guard District Seven commander. “Our U.S. maritime borders are not open and taking to the sea is not an option. Anyone desiring to come to the United States must do so through safe, legal pathways.

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.