19 Cuban migrants come ashore in Key Colony Beach

Nearly two dozen migrants detained in Fort Lauderdale

KEY COLONY BEACH, Fla. – With cries of joy, 19 people came to shore Tuesday morning in Key Colony Beach in a homemade boat.

Onlookers witnessed what is becoming a common occurrence.

One resident told Local 10 News that this is the second recent arrival of migrants in front of her building.

U.S. Border Patrol agents arrived at the beach within minutes followed by a new sight: Florida Highway Patrol troopers and state agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

An FHP lieutenant there Monday said their mission is humanitarian, doling out water and making sure the migrants are OK.

One man told Local 10 News the group he was with are from Matanzas, Cuba, and they were on the homemade boat since leaving the island Sunday.

Agents in Monroe County said they welcome the extra state help.

The stepped up patrols from the state, however, have been met with mixed reviews.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency and a multi-agency operation in the Florida Keys has been established, allowing the National Guard and other state law enforcement, like the Florida Highway Patrol and Florida Department of Law Enforcement to assist.

The mayor of Monroe County says they can desperately use the help.

“I believe as this information gets out to Cuba and the Caribbean, that it will deter some of the migrants from coming over here,” Mayor Craig Cates said.

The American Civil Liberties Union responded to the state response, saying in part, “We cannot turn our backs on people seeking protection from violence and persecution.”

Further north, officials responded to a smuggling event along Seabreeze Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday afternoon.

Authorities detained around two dozen migrants that came ashore, but officials have yet to release any information in regard to their country of origin.

President Joe Biden met with his Mexican counterpart Monday after visiting the southern border over the weekend -- his first time since taking office.

Biden highlighted his immigration plan, which includes a new policy now in effect to start turning back Cubans, Haitians and Nicaraguans at the Texas border, along with Venezuelans, who arrive illegally.

The administration also said it would offer humanitarian parole for up 30,000 people a month from those four countries if they apply online, pass a background check, pay their airfare and find a financial sponsor.

Gov. Greg Abbott, of Texas, says the president’s plan is long overdue.

“He’s two years and about $20 billion too late,” Abbott said.

U.S. Rep. and former Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez added that it’s taken two years and over 5 million illegal migrant crossings for the president to address the border crisis.

More than 4,400 migrants, mostly Cubans with some Haitians, have arrived by boat in Florida since August as those two countries face deepening political and economic crises. Because Washington and Havana do not have diplomatic ties, it is problematic for the U.S. government to send Cubans back once they arrive in Florida.

Those who are stopped at sea are already taken back, since Cuba will accept those people. Almost 8,000 Cubans and Haitians have been intercepted since August — about 50 per day compared with 17 per day in the 2021-22 fiscal year and just two per day during the 2020-21 fiscal year.

Officials in South Florida confirmed that 187 migrants were repatriated to Cuba and 83 others to Haiti Monday after hundreds more were sent back home over the weekend.

Officials said at least 65 migrants have died at sea since August.

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.

Amanda Batchelor is the Digital Executive Producer for Local10.com.