Hundreds of Cuban, Haitian migrants repatriated as Florida steps up patrols

President Biden highlights immigration plan during visit with Mexican counterpart

MONROE COUNTY, Fla. – Officials confirmed that 187 migrants were repatriated to Cuba and 83 others to Haiti Monday after hundreds more were sent back home over the weekend.

But migrants are still coming.

Local 10 met one Cuban woman, who arrived in Key Largo Sunday after spending eight days at sea.

Following the governor’s declaration of a state of emergency, 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.”

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


About the Authors:

Joseph Ojo joined Local 10 in April 2021. Born and raised in New York City, he previously worked in Buffalo, North Dakota, Fort Myers and Baltimore.