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Press Release | Sept. 11, 2023

Multi-agency Task Force efforts lead to rescue in south Florida

Coast Guard Seventh District, Phone: 305-415-6680

MIAMI – Border Patrol agents assigned to the Miami Sector, along with Customs and Border Protection’s Air and Marine Operations, the Coast Guard, National Park Service officers and local law enforcement partners within Homeland Security Task Force – Southeast, responded to a migrant landing at the Dry Tortugas National Park, approximately 70 miles west of Key West, Saturday.

Border Patrol agents responded to a notification from National Park Service officers and encountered 23 Cuban migrants who were stranded on Loggerhead Key after making landfall on a homemade vessel. During interviews, the migrants notified agents that someone jumped overboard while out at sea and was missing from the group.

Coast Guard Sector Key West command center watchstanders launched search and rescue crews. Nearly 24 hours into the search and rescue effort, a Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater aircrew located a person in the water approximately seven nautical miles north of Loggerhead Key, Sunday.

The Coast Guard Cutter Charles Sexton crew was diverted to rescue the survivor and transferred them to a Monroe County Trauma Star aircraft for transportation to higher level medical care, where they remain in stable condition. The survivor correlated to the unlawful migrant venture landing.

“Our agents and law enforcement partners worked diligently over the weekend to ensure these migrants were rescued and provided with immediate care," said Walter N. Slosar, Deputy Director of HSTF-SE and Chief Patrol Agent, U.S. Border Patrol, Miami Sector. "As we enter the peak of hurricane season, unlawful maritime migration becomes an increasingly dangerous journey across the Florida Straits.”

The 24 total Cuban migrants will be interviewed, processed for removal proceedings, and transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Enforcement and Removal Operations custody for repatriation. Anyone who unlawfully attempts to reach the U.S. by sea or who arrives by sea unlawfully will not be permitted to remain in the United States. They will be processed for return to their country of origin or departure, in accordance with U.S. law and policy.

HSTF-SE partners involved in the migrant event and rescue efforts included:

  • National Park Service officers;
  • Border Patrol Miami Sector agents;
  • Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations Southeast Region agents;
  • Coast Guard Sector Key West command center watchstanders;
  • Coast Guard Air Station Miami HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircrews;
  • Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission aircrew;
  • Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater HC-130 Hercules aircrew;
  • Coast Guard Cutter Charles Sexton crew;
  • Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and Fire Rescue crews.

“Our partnerships with federal, state and local agencies in the Florida Keys are critical to the success of Coast Guard operations in the south Florida Straits and Caribbean, including our maritime border security,” said Lt. Lucy M. Wright, Coast Guard Sector Key West enforcement chief and SAR mission coordinator. “Unlawful maritime migration is inherently dangerous and very often deadly, and we’re fortunate that this case resulted in another life saved due to the diligent efforts of our command center and search and rescue crews.”

HSTF-SE serves as the DHS lead for operational and tactical planning, command and control, and as a standing organization to deter, mitigate, and respond to maritime mass migration in the Caribbean Sea and the Straits of Florida. HSTF-SE is the supported DHS entity for Caribbean maritime migration operations, and HSTF-SE partners include federal, state and local agencies.

For updates on HSTF-SE enforcement efforts, follow us on Twitter @HSTF_Southeast. For USBP Miami Sector updates, follow @USBPChiefMIP. For U.S. Coast Guard District Seven updates, follow @USCGSoutheast.