US Coast Guard intercepts hundreds of migrants heading for American shores

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The Coast Guard intercepted hundreds of migrants in overcrowded boats headed toward the United States over the weekend.

In total, 305 people fleeing the Bahamas and Haiti were busted for unlawful maritime migration attempts during Operation Vigilant Sentry and rescued from unsafe vessels and returned to their countries. 

The major operation last week came on the heels of President Biden’s controversial and hotly debated immigration policy, enacted June 4, that bars asylum for migrants who illegally enter the U.S. by land or sea. 

“Irregular maritime migration is unlawful and extremely dangerous,” Coast Guard Enforcement Officer Lt. Nick Fujimoto said in a statement Tuesday. “The OVS maritime border security mission is often equal parts law enforcement and humanitarian response, especially as we enter hurricane season and marine weather becomes more severe and unpredictable.”

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The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Thetis brought 196 people back to the war-torn country of Haiti on Monday after intercepting two migrant voyage last Wednesday and Thursday. 

The other 109 migrants were intercepted by crews of the Coast Guard Cutter Raymond Evans and Cutter Richard Etheridge and handed to the Royal Bahamas Defense Force on Sunday. 

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This is the latest in an annual program called Operation Vigilant Safety (OVS), which is a Homeland Task Force made up of several federal agencies created to monitor and quickly respond to maritime migration originating from the Caribbean. 

“The primary objectives of OVS are to protect the safety of life at sea and to deter and dissuade mass migration,” Homeland Security wrote on its website. 

Last fiscal year, the multi-agency operation intercepted 11,955 migrants. 

This year, even more attention is on Haiti, which is on the brink of civil war, as gangs standing for different ideologies and visions of the future of Haiti battle for control of the country.

Just last week, members of a U.S. Christian mission group were killed during the fighting. 

Gangs now control around 80% of Port-au-Prince, and an estimated 90,000 people have fled in a month, according to the Associated Press. 

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With an expected influx of migrants into Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis deployed additional state resources, including 250 officers and soldiers, to work alongside the federal agencies. 

As the Coast Guard alluded to in its statement, hurricane season started on June 1, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted a harsh season in 2024. 

Forecasters expect to see between 17 and 25 named storms form this year, a sharp spike over the yearly average of 14, as well as eight to 13 hurricanes and four to seven major hurricanes. 

Typically, traveling in overcrowded, shoddy boats, migrants can put themselves in a dangerous situation at sea. 

In a separate incident last week, 49 migrants died and 140 were missing after their boat capsized off the coast of Yemen, according to the UN migration agency. 

The catastrophic voyage began in Somalia.

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“The Coast Guard urges any potential migrants considering the journey: don’t take to the sea and risk your life just to be sent back. Use the safe, orderly and lawful pathways available like the CHNV (Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans) process,” Lt. Fujimoto said in a statement.