Multiple groups of migrants landed in several locations throughout the Florida Keys New Year’s Day, according to law enforcement sources.
The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office said seven or eight groups arrived since the early morning Sunday. One law enforcement source said there was a group of up to 25 people who landed near Sombrero Beach in the Middle Keys city of Marathon, and another group of more than 10 people who arrived near Key Colony Beach, a small incorporated town near Marathon.
U.S. Chief Patrol Agent Walter Slosar Tweeted at 12:28 p.m. that over 160 migrants landed in the Keys Sunday.
The nationalities of the people in the groups were not immediately confirmed, but the island chain has been dealing with the largest increase in maritime migration from Cuba in nearly a decade.
People from Haiti have also been arriving in the Keys in numbers not seen since the early 2000s. But, unlike Cuban migrants, who arrive almost daily in smaller, mostly-homemade vessels, Haitians have been arriving less frequently, but in overloaded boats, some with hundreds of people on board.
On Saturday, the U.S. Border Patrol said in a statement that it and other agencies responded to five migrant landings up and down the Keys since Friday and took 88 people from Cuba into custody.
Since the increase in maritime migration from Cuba started about two years ago, most people stopped at sea are almost immediately placed on a Coast Guard cutter and returned to Cuba.
Those who make it to land, however, are technically placed into removal proceedings, meaning they are released to local family and friends with orders to check in with federal immigration officials.
The process can take years before a person is ordered back to Cuba, and the Cuban government has not accepted deportation flights from the U.S. since 2020.
Sources say this means an unofficial return to the “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy that ended in early 2017 that allowed those who set foot on U.S. soil to stay in the country and apply for permanent residency after a year. Those intercepted at sea were returned to Cuba, as they mostly are now.
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