May 22, 2024
Twenty immigrants are missing and feared dead after attempting to sail from the direction of Cuba to the Florida Keys Wednesday as Hurricane Ian made landfall on South Florida and decimated parts of the region.

Twenty immigrants are missing and feared dead after attempting to sail from the direction of Cuba to the Florida Keys Wednesday as Hurricane Ian made landfall on South Florida and decimated parts of the region.

The Coast Guard resumed its search Thursday for 20 people who were aboard a vessel that capsized as it embarked for the United States Wednesday. Nearly 24 hours after the Coast Guard’s search commenced, authorities have reported just seven survivors.

The Coast Guard pulled three survivors from the water 2 miles offshore from Boca Chica Beach in the Florida Keys Wednesday afternoon.

Another four survivors were found after swimming to shore several hours later, according to the Border Patrol’s Miami chief, Walter N. Slosar.

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The Coast Guard posted rescue footage from its helicopter after it found several survivors as they reached the shoreline.

“Air crews continue to search for the reported missing people in the water after an illegal migration venture failed off the #FloridaKeys. Our ships are patrolling the #FloridaStraits assisting with search and rescue,” the Coast Guard wrote in a Twitter post to its Southeast account on Thursday morning. Regional representatives did not respond to a request for an update.

The Coast Guard is handling the investigation because it has jurisdiction over maritime incidents, while the Border Patrol is responsible for arresting illegal immigrants if they reach land.

Neither government agency has disclosed when the boat is believed to have shipwrecked and where it originated. Border Patrol said in a Twitter post on Wednesday that the four people it pulled from the water are Cuban citizens, an indication the boat may have originated from the island. Border Patrol’s parent agency, Customs and Border Protection, declined to comment on the search and investigation.

As record numbers of Cubans and Haitians attempt to cross the southern land border illegally, others have increasingly taken to the sea. Department of Homeland Security authorities with the Coast Guard told the Washington Examiner earlier this summer that its personnel had interdicted more people at sea than ever before.

A Coast Guard spokesperson pointed to socioeconomic problems in both countries as a reason why immigrants choose to flee.

Between October 2021 and June, the Coast Guard intercepted more than 10,000 people attempting to enter the U.S. illegally by boat. Roughly 3,400 were from Cuba and 6,100 were from Haiti — four times more Haitian immigrants than the previous 12-month record.

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The Coast Guard is increasingly encountering people by sea before they can get to land, a major factor in why Border Patrol apprehensions have not topped the 2007 record of 7,000.

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