140 Haitian migrants land in Florida Keys

KEY LARGO, Fla. – Multiple agencies responded Tuesday morning after a sail freighter with what appeared to be more than 100 Haitian migrants onboard attempted to make landfall in Key Largo.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, approximately 140 people were seen coming onto land in a neighborhood just north of Rodriguez Key.

The Haitians’ arrival comes on the heels of more than 500 Cubans arriving in the Florida Keys since Friday.

Authorities said some of the migrants were seen making it to land and others were spotted wading in the water.

Monroe County Fire Rescue, U.S. Border Patrol and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers were all at the scene providing aid to the migrants.

Migrants told Local 10 News reporter Janine Stanwood that they arrived from the Port-au-Prince area and were at sea for five days.

The migrants are set to be processed by Border Patrol.

Wednesday noon update on migrant landings:

Key Largo resident Doug Rudd captured video of migrants’ arms stretched into the air while wading to shore.

“(They were) happy to be here, they were exhilarated that they were going to make land,” he said.

Wilmer Davilmar, a Haitian migrant, told Local 10 News reporter Christina Vazquez that his number one driver for making the dangerous trip was because of the deepening crisis and gang violence in Haiti.

Davilmar said he has family in Miami and is hoping to gain legal status and get his two children out of the violence.

“Sometimes in life, you have to risk life to have a better life,” he said.

Davilmar told Local 10 News that if he were sent back to Haiti, he would try the trip all over again.

“If they take me back, I just come back again,” he said.

Amos Augustin, another Haitian migrant, spoke with Local 10 News on how happy she is to arrive in the U.S.

“I haven’t eaten since this morning, but I feel so joyous,” Augustin said. “This land is beautiful. I feel like I’m alive and I can live.”

Watch Davilmar and Augustin’s story in our 5:00 p.m. news edition below.

Authorities told Local 10 News that the Key Largo surge was one of the largest of several migrant landings on Tuesday.

According to officials, 20 Cuban migrants arrived in Key West and 27 Cubans arrived at Mile Marker 88 in Islamorada, two of which were transported to a hospital.

Migrants were also seen landing in Duck Key and the Dry Tortugas National Park, which is now closed to the public and operating as a migrant processing staging ground.

Locations of migrant landings on Tuesday (WPLG)

Witnesses sent video of the migrants’ arrival to Local 10 News, which you can watch at the top of this page.

“It was amazing to see that these people would risk everything to make that trip,” said Rudd. “It was also hard thinking they will probably be sent back--It is heartbreaking really.

Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay told Local 10 News that the back-to-back migrant landings are stretching local, state and federal sources thin.

“We feel bad for people in foreign countries who wish they could be here but we are overwhelmed,” he said. “I hate to get politics involved but this is man-made, this is a man-made crisis.”

The landings have also affected South Florida in a big way, according to a tweet from Chief Patrol Agent Walter N. Slosar.

“Since Oct. 22, South Florida has experienced a 400% increase in migrant encounters,” Slosar tweeted.

The U.S. Coast Guard also confirmed that in just the last three months, they have interdicted more than 4,000 Cuban migrants at sea.

About the Authors:

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.

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."