DeSantis: Florida Stops Haitian Migrant Boat; What They Found Should Alarm You

Ververidis Vasilis /
Ververidis Vasilis /

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared on Friday that state authorities had intercepted a vessel transporting dozens of Haitian migrants along with firearms and drugs amidst escalating gang violence in the Caribbean nation.

Speaking at a press conference, DeSantis stated, “Our Florida Fish and Wildlife officers halted a vessel carrying 25 individuals, potential illegal immigrants from Haiti. On board, they discovered firearms, drugs, night vision equipment, and engaged in reckless boating, posing a potential threat to others.” The interception occurred within the past few weeks, with the migrants subsequently handed over to the Coast Guard for deportation, he added.

The announcement followed the disclosure of a leaked Border Patrol email indicating that Miami officials were instructed to brace for a possible surge of Haitian migrants fleeing the country’s gang-dominated situation.

The email underscored the station’s vulnerability to being overwhelmed by a single landing. It emphasized the need to confine incoming migrants to one designated area while providing essential medical aid and conducting background checks.

Earlier in the week, DeSantis deployed nearly 150 additional officers, including 48 National Guardsmen, to patrol the Florida coast. The governor, a member of the Republican Party, asserted on Friday that Haitian migration to Florida merely represents the surface of a broader issue. Since January 2023, Florida has collaborated with the Coast Guard in intercepting 670 vessels carrying over 13,500 illegal immigrants.

Haiti appears to be on the verge of a civil war, which is also leading to a deepening humanitarian crisis in the country. Many have predicted that the U.S. is about to receive an influx of Haitians. Last week, due to security concerns and infrastructure challenges, the U.S. embassy warned American citizens to leave Haiti immediately via commercial or privately available transportation options. Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz also expressed his deep concerns about the potential large-scale migration of Haitian nationals to Florida during the House Armed Services Committee hearing.

“The message is clear: attempting to reach Florida via boat from any of these islands is futile. The likelihood is that you will be intercepted and repatriated to your country of origin,” DeSantis cautioned. “It’s a perilous journey, not worth undertaking, and we possess the resources to safeguard the people of Florida.”

On Friday, DeSantis also approved legislation that toughens penalties for immigrants residing illegally in the United States if they are found guilty of driving without a license or committing felonies.

DeSantis is well known for his vocal opposition to the Biden administration’s border policies. He has consistently criticized the handling of the Mexican border, even dispatching Florida law enforcement officers and National Guard troops to Texas.

The Republican governor, who recently withdrew from the race for his party’s presidential nomination, has also facilitated the transportation of immigrants apprehended in Texas to states like Massachusetts and California.

DeSantis emphasized that illegal immigration, particularly the disregard for laws by those unlawfully present in the country, is not tolerated. “The bills signed today further bolster Florida’s capacity to enforce the law,” DeSantis emphasized.

The governor linked the newly signed driver’s license legislation to an existing Florida law prohibiting immigrants in the country illegally from obtaining licenses. The measure increases the maximum penalty for repeat offenders caught driving without a license from 60 days in jail to a year, which applies equally to U.S. citizens and immigrants with legal status.

However, specific immigrant advocacy organizations have voiced concerns over the bill, arguing that it jeopardizes public safety. They contend that many immigrants, unable to obtain licenses, will still drive, albeit without having undergone testing or securing insurance. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, nineteen states and Washington, D.C., issue driver’s licenses to immigrants residing in the country illegally.