DeSantis Says Florida Intercepted Haitian Migrant Boat Carrying Drugs, Guns

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March 15, 2024

Florida governor Ron DeSantis (R.) announced on Friday that state officials intercepted a vessel carrying dozens of Haitian migrants with firearms and drugs amid widespread gang violence in the Caribbean country.

"Our Florida Fish and Wildlife officers interdicted a vessel that had 25 illegal immigrants, potential illegal immigrants from Haiti in their boat," DeSantis said at a press conference. "In their vessel they had firearms, they had drugs, they had night vision gear and were boating very recklessly, which would potentially endanger other folks." The vessel was intercepted in the last few weeks, and the illegal migrants "were turned over to the Coast Guard for deportation," the governor added. 

The announcement came a few days after a leaked Border Patrol email revealed the agency’s Miami officials were told to prepare for a potential influx of Haitian migrants fleeing the country’s gang takeover. "One landing will cripple the station and our ability to respond to other traffic," the email said, urging officials to contain incoming migrants to one area while providing any necessary medical assistance and conducting background checks. 

DeSantis earlier this week deployed nearly 150 additional officers, including 48 National Guardsmen, to the Florida coast. The Republican governor said Friday that the Haitian migration to Florida is just the tip of the iceberg: Since January 2023, Florida has assisted the Coast Guard in intercepting 670 vessels carrying more than 13,500 illegal immigrants.

"The message is the last thing you should want to do is get on a boat and think you're going to come through from any of these islands to get to the state of Florida. The most likely scenario is you'll be stopped, and you will be returned to your country of origin," DeSantis said. "It's a hazardous journey, it’s not worth doing, and we have the resources to continue to keep the people of Florida safe."