About 140 Haitian migrants land in Florida Keys

6 suspected smuggling operations have been discovered in Keys this month alone

Smuggling operations are on the rise in South Florida, federal agents say, with the latest suspected incident involving about 140 Haitian nationals who came ashore in Summerland Key on Monday morning.

SUMMERLAND KEY, Fla. – A group of about 140 Haitian migrants came to shore in the Lower Florida Keys on Monday morning, border authorities confirmed, the latest in a string of suspected smuggling operations.

Monroe County Sheriff’s Office said it received the initial call of the large group of migrants landing near Summerland Key, which is about 20 miles from Key West.

A crowded ship arrives on Monday at Summerland Key with Haitian migrants.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection also responded to the scene and is the lead agency investigating.

“Border Patrol Agents and local law enforcement partners are responding to investigate a potential maritime smuggling event near Cudjoe Key, CBP spokesman Adam Hoffner said. “At this time, the investigation is still ongoing.”

Photo shows a large migrant landing Monday in the lower Florida Keys. (Photo courtesy of Monroe County Sheriff's Office)

Four of the migrants were taken to an area hospital for dehydration, Hoffner said. The others will be transported to border patrol stations in Marathon and Dania Beach for removal proceedings.

The vessel transporting the migrants was in poor condition and severely overcrowded, investigators say. A photo showed blankets lining a portion of the deck.

Florida Keys deputies shared this photo of a boat that transported migrants near the shore Monday. (Photo courtesy of Monroe County Sheriff's Office)

Monday’s landing comes just over a week after 356 Haitian migrants were taken into custody near Key Largo.

“The criminal organizations that overload these vessels sacrifice the safety of the migrants for the sake of profits,” Chief Patrol Agent Walter Slosar of the U.S. Border Patrol Miami Sector said previously.

Border agents say they have responded to six suspected maritime smuggling events in the Florida Keys since the start of March, including five in the past eight days:

According to U.S. Coast Guard data, their crews since Oct. 1 have rescued 1,193 Haitians compared to:

  • 1,527 Haitian migrants in fiscal year 2021
  • 418 Haitian migrants in fiscal year 2020
  • 932 Haitian migrants in fiscal year 2019
  • 609 Haitian migrants in fiscal year 2018
  • 419 Haitian migrants in fiscal year 2017
A look at the rising trend of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol encounters with Haitian citizens since the start of the new fiscal year in October. (U.S. Customs and Border Patrol graphic)

[ALSO SEE: Special unit patrols amid ‘dangerous’ surge of migrants trying to reach South Florida shores]

About the Authors:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."

Janine Stanwood joined Local 10 News in February 2004 as an assignment editor. She is now a general assignment reporter. Before moving to South Florida from her Washington home, Janine was the senior legislative correspondent for a United States senator on Capitol Hill.