The U.S. Coast Guard and federal immigration agencies stopped three human smuggling attempts and detained 100 people off Florida’s coast from Sunday to Tuesday, the military branch said in a news release sent on Wednesday.
Along with U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations officers, Coast Guard members detained 43 people on Sunday off Jupiter’s coast and one suspected smuggler was transferred to Homeland Security Investigation officers for further investigation, according to the Coast Guard.
Another 26 people were apprehended on Sunday by Border Patrol officers after a “maritime smuggling event” landed in the vicinity of Ocean Boulevard, the Coast Guard added.
Authorities also detained 28 people of various nationalities on Tuesday off Pompano’s coast, and the case is under investigation by Homeland Security Investigation officers.
Two landings took place off Pompano Beach on Sunday and Tuesday, though approximately 26 people were not apprehended, the Coast Guard noted.
Human trafficking and human smuggling are often confused but the two are very different crimes, according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.
Human smuggling involves the provision of a service such as transportation to people who voluntarily seek to gain illegal entry into a foreign country, while human trafficking involves exploiting people for forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation, according to ICE.
“Human smuggling is dangerous and illegal,” Rear Adm. Brendan McPherson, commander of the Coast Guard Seventh District and director of Homeland Security Task Force-Southeast, said in the news release.
“Smugglers exploit vulnerable people for profit with no regard for their safety. We work hard, along with our dedicated local law enforcement and fellow DHS partners, to protect all lives on and offshore,” he continued.
“Air and Marine Operations has the duty to patrol the waters around the Florida Straits, and along with our partners, we work every day to defeat the efforts of smugglers who have little regard for the human suffering they cause,” said Gerald Burgess, a spokesperson for Air and Marine Operations.
“The U.S. Border Patrol in the Miami Sector is committed to supporting the mission of CBP in disrupting transnational criminal organizations that attempt to smuggle migrants or narcotics into Florida,” added Chief Patrol Agent Thomas Martin., U.S. Border Patrol and Deputy Director of Homeland Security Task Force-Southeast.
People intercepted at sea are transferred or repatriated to their country of origin, the Coast Guard noted.
Homeland Security Task Force-Southeast helps detect mass migration events, facilitates the assignment of roles and collaboration between participating agencies, the Coast Guard said.
Migration attempts are common in South Florida
These apprehensions off the Florida coast are not rare events.
Since October, federal authorities have stopped more than 400 Cubans at sea who were attempting to migrate to South Florida. If the trend continues, federal authorities could be the busiest they have been in five years patrolling the Florida Straits.
Last Thursday alone, authorities stopped 30 people in three separate incidents, all between 35 and 45 miles south of Key West. All of them were returned to Cuba, the Coast Guard said
On Saturday, 15 men arrived in a small homemade wooden boat shortly before 3 a.m. on Summerland Key, according to the Border Patrol.
A day later, the Coast Guard rescued three Cubans from a sinking boat off the Florida Keys.
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