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.
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.”
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.
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:
- March 1: 12 Cuban migrants
- March 6: 356 Haitian migrants (of those nearly 200 went into Border Patrol custody; the rest processed through Coast Guard for repatriation to Haiti)
- March 9: 29 Cuban migrants
- March 10: 10 Cuban migrants
- March 12: 17 Cuban migrants
- March 14: Approximately 140 Haitian migrants
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