MIAMI— U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations Southeast Region crews worked with U.S. Coast Guard, Homeland Security Task Force-Southeast, local and international law enforcement partners to apprehend 1,086 migrants between Dec. 1 and Dec. 14, 2023.
On Dec. 5, Miami Air and Marine Branch and Jacksonville Air and Marine Branch Multi-Role Enforcement Aircraft crews located multiple smuggling vessels near Turks and Caicos Islands. The crews communicated the location to an Operation Bahamas Turks and Caicos (OPBAT) team who coordinated for Turks and Caicos Islands maritime police to conduct the interdiction. Partner nation maritime teams apprehended 306 migrants over multiple events in a single day working with Air and Marine Operations aircrews who conducted aerial monitoring. This event accounts for nearly 30 percent of apprehensions in the first two weeks of December for the Southeast Region.
“This event highlights the cooperation between Air and Marine Operations branches. Aircrews from Jacksonville and Miami continued to work together throughout the day to keep eyes on suspicious vessels in order to guide maritime units to their location,” stated Drew Gellerson, Director of Air and Marine Operations, Jacksonville Air and Marine Branch.
Another significant enforcement event occurred on Dec. 11 near Key Largo, Florida. Marine Interdiction Agents received a report of an overloaded vessel near Islamorada. A Key Largo Marine Unit Coastal Interceptor Vessel crew responded and worked with multiple U.S. Coast Guard crews to apprehend 47 migrants. The migrants indicated they had departed Cuba approximately eight days prior and displayed an “SOS” flag when they were discovered by responding authorities.
Our crews train relentlessly to be prepared for situations like this,” stated Travis Curtin, Acting Deputy Director of Marine Operations, Miami Air and Marine Branch. “We will continue to work as a team with our international, federal, state, and local partners to stop illicit maritime traffic.”
On Dec. 1, Air and Marine Agents apprehended 63 migrants near Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico. A Caribbean Air and Marine Branch Multi-Role Enforcement Aircraft worked in tandem with two Mayaguez Marine Unit Coastal Interceptor Vessel crews and Puerto Rican maritime police to interdict an overloaded vessel. The occupants of the dangerously overloaded vessel included two pregnant females. Air and Marine Agents and local maritime police brought all persons on board before transferring the migrants to the U.S. Border Patrol for processing.
“This event demonstrates the critical teamwork that enables our crews to stop human smuggling on the seas,” stated Creighton Skeen, acting Director of Air and Marine Operations, Caribbean Air and Marine Branch. “Our crews will continue to strengthen our partnerships in the Southeast Region to keep the seas safe.”
Air and Marine Operations’ Southeast Region traces the coasts of Texas and Florida; extends north over the Atlantic to North Carolina; and reaches the Caribbean Sea, where Air and Marine Operations operates from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
In Fiscal Year 2022, AMO enforcement actions resulted in 967 arrests and 134,981 apprehensions of undocumented individuals, as well as the seizure or disruption of 250,616 pounds of cocaine, 1,475 pounds of fentanyl, 25,625 pounds of methamphetamine, 1,342 weapons, and $21.7 million.