Over the long New Year weekend, Dry Tortugas national park in the FL Keys was temporarily shut down in response to a massive influx of illegal immigrants, reportedly primarily from Cuba and Haiti.
DeSantis signed an executive order on January 6, mobilizing National Guard troops and other law enforcement to aid the Coast Guard and local law enforcement in providing services and processing to the immigrants.
In a statement along with the executive order, DeSantis said, “As the negative impacts of Biden’s lawless immigration policies continue unabated, the burden of the Biden administration’s failure falls on local law enforcement who lack the recourse to deal with the crisis.” DeSantis continued, “That is why I am activating the National Guard and directing state resources to help alleviate strain on local resources. When Biden continues to ignore his legal responsibilities, we will step in to support our communities.”
Governor DeSantis also expressed displeasure with the federal government’s handling of illegal immigration, calling it “inept” and that it “failed to provide the resources to respond to the current mass migration event.”
The Homeland Security Task Force-Southeast stated they have stopped or removed more than 1,300 refugees at sea or from Dry Tortugas National Park and other areas of the Florida Keys since December 30, 2022, WUSF reported. They urged Haitian and Cuban families to dissuade others from future efforts, citing that approximately 62 deaths were recorded among refugees using the waterways in an attempt to reach the U.S. border in the last year.
As Cuba faces increasing political and economic crisis, more people are taking the risk of the potentially deadly 100-mile trip, usually in makeshift boats commonly called “chugs.” The boats are often rudimentary vessels without motors made by hand from available materials and are not equipped for the sometimes volatile sea.
Cmdr. John William Beal, Public Affairs Officer of the Seventh Coast Guard District, stated, “337 migrants removed from Dry Tortugas National Park are on board the USCGC Maple, a 225’ buoy tender, for transfer to Key West. With the 90 removed earlier this week by the USCGC Richard Ethridge, a 154’ fast response cutter, who were already transferred to United States Border Patrol (USBP) agents’ custody at USCG Sector Key West, that makes the total (number) of migrants landed at Dry Tortugas National Park over the long weekend 427 migrants.”
Dry Tortugas National Park, which normally receives around 255 tourists a day, remained closed as the U.S. evacuated the refugees. It’s expected to reopen Sunday, January 15, to visitors.