MARATHON, Fla. – A wooden sail freighter ran aground with more than 100 migrants on Monday near the Florida Keys. The U.S. Border Patrol announced on Friday that one of the 109 detained was a registered sex offender.
The group that federal agents held in Marathon included children and women. According to Chief Patrol Agent Walter N. Slosar, the man was convicted of kidnapping and sexually abusing a child in the U.S.
Slosar released a recent photograph of him, but he did not release his identity.
Immigration authorities determined the migrants were from Haiti, where gang warfare amid political instability is fueling a humanitarian crisis in the already impoverished country.
After the migrants are detained, the federal agents register their biometrics in a database and compare them with existing databases. That’s how they identified the undocumented convicted felon.
The dangers of the crisis already hit the posh Ocean Reef Country Club, a private community in Key Largo when another crowded wooden sail freighter ran aground on Aug. 6. Federal agents reported detaining 113 Haitian migrants who had been aboard that ship.
U.S. Coast Guard crews and Border Patrol agents are also dealing with an ongoing Cuban exodus. They have been on alert about the increase in unreliable boats capsizing at sea and they are finding bodies.
Capt. Robert Kinsey, the chief of enforcement of Coast Guard District Seven, said more patrols are working on rescues.
“Since Oct. 1, 2021, there are 61 empty place settings at family dinners because people made the decision or were convinced by smugglers to take to the sea in these types of vessels,” Kinsey said in a statement on Friday.
Sector Key West watchstanders rescued several people in the water at about 2:30 p.m., on Monday, some six miles south of Long Key. They were among the 36 Cuban migrants that crews took to Cuba on Tuesday, the U.S. Coast Guard reported.
On Aug. 6, at 7:15 a.m., the Coast Guard rescued a group of migrants after a rustic boat capsized, about 24 miles south of Boot Key. Homeland Security Investigations and partner agencies took custody of a human smuggling suspect.
Slosar, who heads the U.S. Border Patrol’s Miami sector, reported on Aug. 5 that in just two days there had been a dozen landings resulting in 108 Cuban migrants detained in the Florida Keys. Crews found two Cuban migrants dead that same day after a boat capsized.
As of Friday, the Coast Guard reported crews had interdicted 3,963 Cuban migrants since Oct. 1, which is nearly five times the number of Cuban migrants the Coast Guard intercepted during the last fiscal year.
Human traffickers in Cuba and Haiti are charging each migrant thousands of dollars for the voyage. The U.S. Coast Guard has been returning the survivors detained to their home countries.
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