DeSantis orders Florida resources to stop Haitian migrants despite no sign of increased activity

Mar 13, 2024, 12:30 PM | Updated: 2:18 pm

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, anticipating what his office called the “possibility for invasion,” ordered more than 250 law enforcement officers and soldiers to the Florida Keys on Wednesday to stop Haitian migrants fleeing violence — or nearly two people deployed for every Haitian migrant who has been repatriated by the U.S. Coast Guard in the last five months.

Haitian migrants have tried to make the journey to Florida by boat from the impoverished nation for years. DeSantis already sent state resources to the Keys last year in what he said was an attempt to stop migrants. He issued Wednesday’s order for additional personnel along with aircraft and boats after violence in Haiti spiked in recent days.

But so far, the Coast Guard hasn’t seen increased migrant traffic in the waters off Florida.

“Currently, no, there’s nothing out of the ordinary,” said Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Stephen Lehmann in Miami. “We have resources in the area and standing by if we do see an influx.”

The Coast Guard has repatriated 131 migrants found at sea to Haiti since Oct. 1, including 65 on Tuesday who were found on a boat near the Bahamas last week, according to a news release.

The governor’s office said in a news release the state has the right to defend itself from “the potential of invasion.” DeSantis is sending a mix of Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers, along with members of the Florida National Guard and Florida State Guard, to the waters south of the state’s southern Peninsula.

DeSantis made immigration one of his top themes during his failed campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. He has boasted about using millions in state money to fly migrants from the U.S.-Mexico border to California, and to fly Venezuelan migrants from Florida to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, under a program he pushed through the state Legislature.

Haitians have been migrating to the U.S. in large numbers for several years, many having left their Caribbean nation after a devastating 2010 earthquake.

In recent days, Haiti has witnessed a series of gang attacks that have paralyzed the country, forcing thousands of people from their homes, especially in the capital city of Port-au-Prince, where the port and airport remain closed. The armed gangs seized power in much of Port-au-Prince following the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise and now control about 80% of the city.

The U.N. food agency reported Tuesday that 4 million people face “acute food insecurity” and 1 million are one step away from famine.

After an intense session of international diplomacy, a group of Caribbean nations and the United States announced Tuesday that Haiti’s best hope for calming violence rests with the creation of a presidential council of influential figures who would elected an interim prime minister and open the pathway for presidential elections. Some Haitian political parties have rejected the plan.

National News

Associated Press

2 men convicted in 2021 armed standoff on Massachusetts highway

BOSTON (AP) — Two men have been convicted for their role in an armed standoff on a busy Massachusetts highway in 2021 that lasted more than eight hours and caused traffic delays during a busy Fourth of July weekend. Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan announced Friday that Jamhal Tavon Sanders Latimer and Steven Anthony Perez […]

16 minutes ago

Associated Press

Maine doctor convicted on multiple counts of illegally distributing opioids

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A Maine doctor who runs an addiction treatment center has been convicted on multiple counts of illegally distributing opioids including oxycodone, hydromorphone and fentanyl. Dr. Merideth Norris, 53, of Kennebunk, Maine, was found guilty in federal court Friday of distributing the opioids at her practice. According to court documents, she did […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Teen charged with murder in death of 7-year-old Chicago boy struck by random gunfire

CHICAGO (AP) — A teenager was charged with murder in the fatal shooting of a 7-year-old Chicago boy who was not the intended target of gunfire earlier in the week, police said. “There is no excuse for this violence,” police Supt. Larry Snelling said Friday night. Jai’mani Amir Rivera was killed Tuesday outside an apartment […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

3 Alabama men die after becoming distressed while swimming at Florida beach

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Three Alabama men have died from likely drowning after becoming distressed while swimming at a Florida Panhandle beach, authorities said Saturday morning. The young men had traveled to the Panama City Beach area Friday evening, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post. The sheriff’s office received […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

New Mexico heavy rain and flash flooding prompt mandatory evacuations

LAS VEGAS, N.M. (AP) — Heavy rain and flash flood warnings in New Mexico prompted officials to order some mandatory evacuations, with shelters set up for displaced residents. The National Weather Service office announced a flash flood emergency on Friday night through early Saturday. The impacted areas included the city of Las Vegas, New Mexico […]

8 hours ago

Associated Press

Ex-CEO of Nevada-based health care company Ontrak convicted of $12.5 million insider trading scheme

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The former CEO and chairman of Ontrak, a publicly traded health care company based in Nevada, was found guilty Friday of a multimillion-dollar insider trading scheme. A federal jury in Los Angeles convicted Terren Scott Peizer, a resident of Puerto Rico and Santa Monica, California, of one count of securities fraud […]

15 hours ago

DeSantis orders Florida resources to stop Haitian migrants despite no sign of increased activity