Gov. Ron DeSantis deploys additional officers to South Florida amid potential surge of migrants from Haiti

More than 250 additional officers, soldiers headed to southern coast of Florida
Posted at 12:26 PM, Mar 13, 2024

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Amid a surge of violence in Haiti, Gov. Ron DeSantis has ordered additional officers and assets to South Florida and the Keys in anticipation of a potential influx of migrants from the Caribbean nation.

The governor said he has directed the Division of Emergency Management, the Florida State Guard and state law enforcement agencies to deploy more than 250 additional officers and soldiers and more than a dozen air and seacraft to the southern coast of Florida.

"For quite some time, the State of Florida has been dedicating significant resources to combat illegal vessels coming to Florida from countries such as Haiti," DeSantis said in a Wednesday news release. "No state has done more to supplement the (under-resourced) U.S. Coast Guard's interdiction efforts; we cannot have illegal aliens coming to Florida."

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The governor's directive will send additional personnel and assets from the following agencies:

  • Florida Department of Law Enforcement: 39 additional officers
  • Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission: 23 additional officers with eight additional seacraft
  • Florida National Guard: 48 additional guardsmen with four additional helicopters
  • Florida Highway Patrol: 30 additional officers with additional aircraft and drones for surveillance

According to the governor's office, DeSantis will also authorize a deployment of the Florida State Guard to the Keys to assist in the operation. This deployment includes up to 133 soldiers.

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"Illegal immigrants feel empowered to enter the sovereign territory of the United States because of the federal government's refusal to diligently enforce our immigration laws and protect the integrity of the border," Wednesday's news release from the governor's office said. "When a state faces the possibility of invasion, it has the right and duty to defend its territory and people. Under Governor Ron DeSantis, Florida will act."

WPTV reported last week that local Customs and Border Protection agents responded to four to five migrant encounters in the past month. The majority took place in the last few weeks and nearly all of the migrants on board were Haitian.

The U.S. said Monday it would contribute an additional $100 million to a planned multinational effort to counter ongoing violence in Haiti. Gangs have recently asserted violent control over much of the capital Port-au-Prince.

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Missionary Flights International, a nonprofit in Fort Pierce that flies boxes of supplies to about 600 missionaries in Haiti and other countries, has been forced to ground its flights to Haiti for the first time in years.

Haiti native Frantz Beneus said you can't blame his people for leaving the country.

"You're forced to do that," Beneus said. "If I was there, I would do so because the situation is so bad. You have to leave where there is no life."

Immigration lawyer Bill Gerstein said it's a real possibility more undocumented immigrants from Haiti will try to make it to the U.S.

"We definitely could, and if they do take the route by sea, it's extremely dangerous," he said.