(Bethany Blankley, The Center Square) As more foreign nationals are caught attempting to illegally enter Florida and are repatriated to their country or port of origin, a new method to bypass law enforcement efforts by sea is underway by air: hang gliders.
On Saturday, two Cuban nationals landed at the Key West International Airport using a powered hang glider. They were taken into custody by Monroe County Sheriff’s Office deputies, who then turned them over to U.S. Border Patrol. No injuries were reported, the sheriff’s office said.
Border Patrol agents continue arrest violent gang members after they’ve illegally entered the U.S. at the southwest border.
On March 13, Miami Sector Chief Patrol agent Walter Slosar said Border Patrol agents arrested a Honduran national in Fort Myers who had seven prior arrests and was identified as an MS-13 gang member who’d illegally entered the U.S. as a juvenile near El Paso, Texas.
As law enforcement officers in Texas and Arizona have warned, single, military age men make up the majority of those illegally entering the U.S. at the southwest border.
Miami Sector Border Patrol agents working with local sheriffs offices and Coast Guard crews continue to apprehend human smugglers arriving by sea.
Last weekend, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office interdicted a maritime smuggling event and apprehended 15 citizens from Ecuador, Vietnam, Cuba and the Dominican Republic being smuggled into Florida on a motorized boat. Two suspected smugglers were identified and would be prosecuted, Slosar said.
A U.S. Coast Guard crew apprehended five Ecuadorians, three Dominicans, one Cuban, four Chinese and two Vietnamese in a smuggling event in the vicinity of Lake Worth Inlet earlier this month, it announced.
“Coast Guard and partner agency crews are stopping people from illegally landing in the U.S.,” Lt. Cmdr. Mark Cobb, Coast Guard District Seven, said.
They also rescued four foreign nationals from a capsized vessel three miles east of Juno Beach in a separate incident after receiving a call from the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office.
Border Patrol agents and law enforcement partners on March 10 apprehended 10 citizens of Guyana, Jamaica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Brazil arriving on a powerboat that made landfall on Boynton Beach. An investigation was launched into a possible human smuggling operation.
Monroe County Sheriff’s Office deputies and Border Patrol agents continue to apprehend Cubans arriving in the Florida Keys using rustic vessels. In one instance, they responded to a rustic vessel landing on Sombrero Beach in the Florida Keys and apprehended five Cubans. In another, they apprehended 19 Cubans using a rustic vessel in Key Largo.
Coast Guard crews continue to save people at sea and repatriate them to Cuba or the Bahamas. Coast Guard Station Key West crew members recently saved 18 people who were in the water and another 10 from a rustic vessel in perilous conditions on March 21.
On March 24, Coast Guard Cutter Bernard C. Webber’s crew repatriated 64 Cubans. On March 20, 29 were repatriated to the Bahamas. On March 15, Coast Guard Cutters Charles Sexton and James’ crews transferred 32 Cubans to The Bahamas and repatriated 27 Cubans to Cuba.
“Coast Guard and partner agency crews are not letting people illegally land in the U.S.,” Capt. Robert Kinsey, Coast Guard District Seven, said. He also said, “15 people needlessly died at sea because they risked the unpredictable Florida Straits in unseaworthy vessels without safety equipment.”
Since Oct. 1, 2022, Coast Guard crews have interdicted 5,862 Cubans, nearly as many as they did in all of fiscal 2022 – 6,182. By comparison, they apprehended 838 Cubans in fiscal 2021, according to U.S. Coast Guard data.
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