These repatriations are a result of three separate migrant interdictions at sea in the south Florida Straits. In each instance, the Coast Guard helped secure the U.S. border and prevented these perilous sea voyages from ending in tragedy.
On Saturday, an Air Station Clearwater HC-130 aircrew located a make-shift raft south of Key West, Florida, with 26 Cuban migrants aboard. The Coast Guard Cutter Venturous arrived on scene and safely embarked all the migrants. Seven of the 26 migrants were found to have gunshot wounds suffered prior to the interdiction. The most critical, six, were medevaced to a local area hospital.
On Sunday, the Coast Guard Cutter Charles Sexton detected a migrant vessel south of Key West, Florida, with seven Cuban migrants aboard. The Charles Sexton crew safely embarked all the migrants with no reports of any injuries.
On Sunday, a Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater HC-130 aircrew detected a 35 foot center console vessel south of Dry Tortugas, Florida, with 25 Cuban migrants aboard. The Coast Guard Cutter Charles David Jr. arrived on scene and safely embarked all the migrants with no reports of any injuries.
“Safety of life at sea continues to be the Coast Guard’s primary concern,” said Capt. Mark Gordon, chief of enforcement for the Coast Guard 7th District. “The dangerous waters of the Florida Straits can be unforgiving for the unprepared on ill advised and illegal voyages. Immigration policies have not changed and we urge people not to take to the ocean in unseaworthy vessels. It is extremely dangerous and illegal. Encouraging or aiding any foreign national to enter the United States without prior permission is a crime punishable by up to five years imprisonment and a fine; in the event that any foreign national being smuggled into the United States suffers serious bodily injury that offense is punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment.”
The Coast Guard has observed a steady increase in illegal maritime migration attempts from Cuba to the Southeastern U.S. since the U.S. announcement of normalized diplomatic relations with Cuba in December 2014, nearly 15 months ago.
Since Oct. 1, the Coast Guard 7th District estimates that 2,753 Cubans have attempted to illegally migrate via the sea. These numbers represent the total number of at-sea interdictions, landings and disruptions in the Florida Straits, the Caribbean and Atlantic.
The Coast Guard Cutters Isaac Mayo and Charles Sexton are 154-foot fast response cutters homeported out of Key West, Florida. The Coast Guard Cutter Venturous is a 210-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in St. Petersburg, Florida.