Local 10 gets exclusive look as US Coast Guard shuttles migrants from Dry Tortugas to Key West

KEY WEST, Fla. – Local 10 News traveled 70 miles west of Key West toward the Dry Tortugas Wednesday, where more than 300 migrants from Cuba made landfall over the New Year holiday weekend.

On Wednesday night, after a multi-day effort to make sure they were safe and had water, the migrants were shuttled onto a U.S. Coast Guard cutter to be brought back to Key West.

The landings forced the National Park Service to make an unprecedented move: to temporarily shut down the historic Fort Jefferson facility and the park.

This comes after a surge of migrants from Cuba and Haiti have arrived in the Florida Keys, testing law enforcement on every level.

“It has become a non-stop, every-day all night all day event for us,” said a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent who asked not to be identified by name for security reasons.

U.S. Border Patrol has reported 16 failed smuggling events and nearly 600 migrants encountered in the Miami Sector over the last five days.

The migrants who were taken onboard the cutter are expected to arrive in Key West and will soon be processed by U.S. Border Patrol.

Below are some statistics from Dec. 30-Jan. 2 on migrants released Wednesday by Homeland Security:

HSTF-SE interdicted/encountered:

• 606 migrants at sea;

• 59 migrants on Marquesas;

• 364 migrants on @DryTortugasNPS

• 326 migrants in Florida Keys;

• 27 migrants on Isla Monito between Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico;

• 2 suspected migrants in the U.S. Virgin Islands;

• Prevented two Haitian migrant sail freighter departures near the north coast of Haiti.

About the Author:

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.