‘Totally unfair’: Florida homeowners told to pay thousands to remove abandoned migrant boat, or face a felony

A Florida couple is being forced to pony up at least $2,500 to “clean and sterilize” a boat illegal Cuban migrants abandoned on their property or risk catching a felony charge from law enforcement.

Homeowner Jack Bartkus told Florida Fox News affiliate WSVN Miami that he can’t just leave the boat on the water, as it presents a safety risk.

“There’s diesel fuel on there,” he explained. “You can’t have an oil spill and to have this thing floating out on the water, it’s unsafe for other people.”

Bartkus said police told him “about 20 people” sailed the small boat from Cuba to his property. The cops “took the people into custody [but] they didn’t do anything with the boat.”

He said his property “was littered with clothes and blankets, and across the street there were backpacks and shoes.”

“They left it here and just discarded it,” he said. “So it became my problem.”

“It’s unfair,” he added. “Totally unfair.”

Sue Bartkus recounted the moment the boat fell into their laps.

“I was sitting having coffee, looking out at the ocean,” she told WSVN. “My granddaughter came running upstairs and said, ‘Did you see what’s out in front?’”

Now she says she’ll likely face a felony charge if the boat should drift out to sea.

The code enforcement officer told her as much.

“He said, ‘Well, if it goes out there, I’m going to consider it a push off your part,'” she explained. “I said ‘Really?’ I mean, so you’re just supposed to let it destroy your pier, your docks, your sea walls, and you’re supposed to have to get rid of it?”

According to WSVN reporter Kaen Hensel, the answer, shockingly, is “yes.”

“It might surprise you — but the answer is yes,” she said. “When migrants make landfall and leave a boat behind on private property, Florida Fish and Wildlife confirmed to 7 Investigates, it is the homeowner’s responsibility to take care of it.”

Local residents of Key Colony Beach received a letter in which officials informed them that migrant boats were their problem, not the government’s, WSVN reports.

“[I]f any vessel ends up on your private property [it] becomes your problem. This rule of law is both inconvenient and a bit expensive, but it is the law,” the officials stated.

“It’s a very frustrating situation,” Sue lamented. “The guy from City Hall said, ‘Now, if you let any of that oil or gas spill into the water now you’re going to have to pay for an environmental cleanup.'”

“I mean, really, who’s responsible for all this?” she asked. “It shouldn’t be me.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ Rapid Response Director, Christina Pushaw, agrees.

“This is completely unfair,” she tweeted on Wednesday. “DHS [Department of Homeland Security] should be paying for this.”


In yet another display of true leadership, DeSantis stepped up.

“There’s vessels left everywhere [on] people’s property,” he said. “We declared a state of emergency. We provided [the] Coast Guard the assistance that they’ve asked for.”

“We are going to clear the vessels free of charge for those residents because it wasn’t their fault,” the governor stated. “Maybe we’ll send the bill to Biden. We’ll see.”

Following Hensel’s report, the Florida Division of Emergency Management tweeted that “the state” would now remove abandoned migrant vessels from private properties “free of charge.”

 

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