This week, the Coast Guard deployed additional cutters, boats and aircraft, including one of its newest and most capable ships, USCGC James (WMSL 754) with an embarked Commander Task Unit, in support of Homeland Security Task Force – Southeast and Operation Vigilant Sentry.

Coast Guard Cutter James is a national security cutter with robust C5ISR (command, control, computers, communications, cyber, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) tools for offshore detection and interdiction, adding to the already increased law enforcement personnel and resources previously surged to support HSTF-SE.

Last week, the Department of Homeland Security announced increased legal pathways for those desiring to come to the United States and the associated penalties for those who enter the country illegally via maritime borders.

“Cubans and Haitians who take to the sea and land on U.S. soil will be ineligible for the parole process and will be placed in removal proceedings. USCG and CBP maintain a continual presence with air and sea assets in the Florida Straits and in the Caribbean Sea. Those attempting to enter unlawfully by sea will be interdicted and repatriated, consistent with U.S. law, policies and international treaty obligations,” said DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. “Irregular maritime migration aboard unseaworthy or overloaded vessels is always dangerous, and often deadly. We are steadfast in our commitment to saving lives and discouraging anyone from taking to the sea to irregularly migrate.”

HSTF-SE partners from federal, state and local agencies first increased their OVS enforcement efforts in response to irregular, illegal maritime migration in the Florida Straits, Windward and Mona passes on Aug. 21, 2022. HSTF-SE components are again surging additional personnel and assets to reinforce efforts on land, air and sea to save lives and prevent illegal entry to the United States.

This past week, HSTF-SE partners in south Florida and the Caribbean performed the following:

  • At-sea interdictions: 15 ventures halted with 244 migrants onboard
  • Migrant landing apprehensions: approximately 200 migrant landing apprehensions/ encounters
  • Migrant repatriations/transfers: 263 to Cuba and Haiti, 39 to Bahamas
  • Criminal arrests by HSI: 10

The Unified Command for HSTF-SE under OVS represents an “all-of-government” approach and includes the following federal, state and local law enforcement and emergency management components:

  • State of Florida:  FDEM, FDLE, Miami-Dade County, and Monroe County.

As a standing task force with a scalable operational plan, HSTF-SE and OVS are always actively in place and being exercised to prevent and deter illegal maritime migration. DHS federal law enforcement components sent additional personnel, boats and aircraft to the southeast maritime border when HSTF-SE enhanced its operational posture in Aug. 2022. The federally led response over the past six months marks the largest placement of ships and aircraft in the region since 2010. There are currently over 500 additional deployed DHS personnel, 1,000 additional Coast Guard cutter patrol days reallocated from other missions and more than 20 additional aircraft representing six agencies dedicated to the maritime migration mission.

Additional Florida state resources have been committed to south Florida and the Florida Keys under the oversight of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, including the Florida National Guard, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the Florida Highway Patrol. Their contributions within the task force are coordinated through FDEM within the existing organizational structure and unity of effort that exists among the standing HSTF-SE unified command partners to synchronize and leverage each agency’s unique capabilities to address illegal maritime migration in the region.

Migrants interdicted at sea or apprehended ashore are provided food, water, shelter, basic first aid and processed to determine their identity, nationality, criminal history, and if they have a legal basis to enter or remain in the U.S. If it is determined that they do not have a legal basis, they will be processed for removal or repatriation to their country of origin or departure. Cubans and Haitians who enter by sea will be placed in removal proceedings and will be ineligible for the new parole process as a result.