U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine Operations, the U.S. Border Patrol, Office of Field Operations, along with federal, state, and local law enforcement partners responded simultaneously to a maritime smuggling event on Sunday afternoon in Key Largo, Florida, where a vessel containing 356 Haitian migrants ran aground several hundred yards offshore.
After running aground near Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, migrants jumped off the vessel in an attempt to swim to shore despite rough sea conditions. Law enforcement reacted quickly and rescued numerous migrants from the water. A total of 158 migrants were rescued from the water, and then evaluated by Emergency Medical Services on scene. All 158 Haitian migrants rescued were taken into U.S. Border Patrol custody.
An additional 198 migrants remained onboard the vessel and were safely removed from the vessel and taken into custody by the U.S. Coast Guard.
“The coordinated and timely response of the U.S. Border Patrol and our federal, state, and local partners potentially saved the lives of these migrants today,” said Walter N. Slosar, Chief Patrol Agent, U.S. Border Patrol, Miami Sector. “We are fortunate to report that there were no serious injuries or fatalities associated with this smuggling venture. The criminal organizations that overload these vessels sacrifice the safety of the migrants for the sake of profits.”
The 158 migrants in U.S. Border Patrol custody will be interviewed and processed for removal proceedings. The remaining 198 migrants remain on a U.S. Coast Guard cutter and are pending repatriation to Haiti.