SUMMERLAND KEY, Fla. — Haitian migrants are reaching Florida's shores in large numbers as human smuggling operations ramp up, outpacing last year's migration waves.
Some 140 Haitian migrants came ashore Monday on Summerland Key, about 20 miles up the highway from Key West, and Monroe County Sheriff's deputies joined federal agents in processing them.
Earlier this month, a wooden boat carrying hundreds of migrants grounded in shallow water off Key Largo, and 163 people swam ashore near the Ocean Reef Club. Many needed medical treatment, federal officials said.
Another boat carrying 176 Haitians was stopped in January just off the Florida Keys, the U.S. Coast Guard said.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is taking the lead in all three investigations.
The Coast Guard has stopped other Haitian boats navigating near the Bahamas with dozens of migrants. On Sunday, the agency transferred 127 Haitians and three Cuban nationals to Bahamian authorities after picking them up in two incidents near Anguilla Cay, Bahamas.
On Feb. 28, crews spotted a Haitian sailboat with 179 people aboard 30 miles off Andros Island, Bahamas. Last Friday, the Coast Guard stopped another Haitian sail vessel with 123 people, including 39 minors about 10 miles from Anguilla Cay, Bahamas.
“The Coast Guard maintains a persistent presence patrolling the waters around Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas, to help prevent loss of life,” U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Salomee Briggs said in a news release. “Taking to the sea is very dangerous, we urge you not to risk you and your loved-ones’ lives.”
So far this fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, Coast Guard crews have rescued 1,193 Haitians. That compares to 1,527 Haitian migrants who were rescued in all of fiscal year 2021, 418 in 2020 and 932 in 2019, the agency said.