Boatloads of migrants fleeing harsh economic conditions in Cuba and the Caribbean have swarmed the Florida Keys where they forced the closure of a national park, opening another front in the nation’s illegal immigration crisis that has dramatically worsened since President Joe Biden took office nearly two years ago.
Hundreds of refugees have arrived in a flotilla of small boats over the last several days, stressing resources and drawing criticism of the federal government from locals, with one Florida sheriff describing the invasion as a ‘crisis.”
“Refugee arrivals require a lot of resources from the Sheriff’s Office as we help our federal law enforcement partners ensure the migrants are in good health and safe,” Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay said in a Monday statement. “Residents may see an increased amount of law enforcement and emergency responders throughout the county as we continue to respond to these landings.”
“The Sheriff’s Office has been told by the U.S. Border Patrol that some migrant landings may have to wait for federal resources to arrive until the following day, aggravating the mass migration crisis in the Keys. This federal failure is creating a humanitarian crisis,” the statement reads.
“This shows a lack of a working plan by the federal government to deal with a mass migration issue that was foreseeable,” added Sheriff Ramsay.
Over the holiday weekend, hundreds of illegals landed at Dry Tortugas National Park which is around 70 miles from Key West, forcing the scenic tourist destination to temporarily close to the public.
NEW RELEASE: Dry Tortugas National Park will temporarily close to the public on January 2 at 8 am while law enforcement & medical personnel evaluate, provide care for & coordinate transport to Key West for approximately 300 migrants who arrived in the park in the past couple days pic.twitter.com/5UiJ1vP2Lc
— Dry Tortugas National Park (@DryTortugasNPS) January 1, 2023
“On January 2 at 8 am, Dry Tortugas National Park will temporarily close to public access while law enforcement and medical personnel evaluate, provide care for and coordinate transport to Key West for approximately 300 migrants who arrived in the park over the past couple of days. The closure, which is expected to last several days, is necessary for the safety of visitors and staff because of the resources and space needed to attend to the migrants. Concession-operated ferry and sea plane services are temporarily suspended,” the National Park Service announced in a New Year’s Day press release.
“Like elsewhere in the Florida Keys, the park has recently seen an increase in people arriving by boat from Cuba and landing on the islands of Dry Tortugas National Park. Park first responders provide food, water and basic medical attention until the Department of Homeland Security arrives and takes the lead,” the statement added.
At least 88 of the migrants are from Cuba, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a Saturday tweet.
#Breaking: During the past 24 hours, U.S. Border Patrol agents & LE partners responded to 5 migrant landings throughout the Florida Keys and encountered 88 Cuban migrants. @USCGSoutheast @mcsonews @CBPAMORegDirSE #NewYearsEve #Saturday #florida #Cuba pic.twitter.com/Aq415sNGDa
— Chief Patrol Agent Walter N. Slosar (@USBPChiefMIP) December 31, 2022
According to local media reports, the migrants will soon be relocated to Key West.
(Video: CBS Miami)
“The effort now is to try to get them transferred off the island via boat to mainland Key West and the Florida Keys, so they can then be transferred to federal law enforcement agents,” said Lt. Cmdr. John Beal, spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard’s Seventh District.
“They’re uninhabited remote islands that don’t have the infrastructure to support them,” he said of the remote, sparsely populated park that is only accessible by boat or seaplane.
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