KEY LARGO, Fla. – A total of 356 Haitian migrants made their way to the Florida Keys over the weekend before being taken into custody
Officials with the U.S. Coast Guard said the boat came ashore near the Ocean Reef community in Key Largo on Sunday afternoon.
Newly obtained video shows dozens of migrants being taken into custody by the Coast Guard not long after their boat ran ashore.
The boat was first spotted by a passerby, who called it in to authorities.
The boat was said to be in such poor condition it was later seen listing to one side.
“The vessel was starting to break apart with potential concerns of capsizing,” said Adam Hoffner, of U.S. Border Patrol.
Coast Guard crews and rescue workers responded quickly to help out the migrants, which included women and children.
“All of their lives were at-risk during the journey,” Hoffner said.
Hoffner confirmed Monday that 158 migrants who tried swimming to shore were taken into U.S. Border Patrol custody. He said the migrants “will be interviewed and processed for removal proceedings.”
“We do suspect this was a smuggling operation that did depart from Haiti,” Hoffner said. “Our concern right now is the safety of the migrants.”
According to Hoffner, “198 migrants who initially remained onboard the vessel were safely transferred by U.S. Coast Guard partners to one of their cutters.”
He said local authorities are arranging for the boat to be removed or disposed of.
“The smugglers in this case are focused strictly on profit and greed and have no regard for human life,” said Hoffner.
Congresswoman Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick went on the House floor Monday and urged Congress and President Joe Biden to rethink Haitian immigration policy.
“This problem has been a continuous problem for us, especially when Haiti has times of instability,” she said.
Cherfilus-McCormick wants the Biden Administration to do away with Title 42, part of a health law that prohibits entry into the United States when there is a serious health risk, as has been the case with COVID-19.
“We continuously watch other immigrants and other migrants given the opportunity that Haitian migrants are consistently denied, and so it infuriates me,” she said.
This isn’t the first time this has happened near Ocean Reef.
In January, close to 100 people from Haiti made landfall nearby.