(CNN/WSVN) — The US Coast Guard says it repatriated 273 Cuban migrants Sunday after intercepting a number of boats off the Florida coast on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, as they continued to stop groups of migrants this weekend.
The 273 migrants were returned to Cuba aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk, according to a news release.
“The Coast Guard continues to interdict and rescue migrants from grossly overloaded, unseaworthy vessels,” said Lt. Cmdr. John Beal of Coast Guard District Seven.
“These illegal voyages are always dangerous and often deadly. We are working closely with partner agencies to save lives and prevent illegal entry to the United States via our southeast maritime border,” Beal said.
The migrants were intercepted on several occasions on December 31, 2022 and January 1, 2023, the release said.
One of the vessels had capsized when a “good Samaritan” alerted the Coast Guard to its presence in waters about 35 miles north of Havana, it said.
According to the Coast Guard, once the migrants were aboard a Coast Guard cutter, they received food, water, shelter and basic medical attention.
On Sunday, authorities responded to two migrant landings in the Florida Keys, one in Marathon and the other in Key Largo. More than 50 migrants were taken into custody from the two locations.
Further north, a makeshift boat washed ashore on Hallandale Beach. A Coast Guard crew intercepted those migrants.
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The landings have led to loved ones reuniting after years apart and a dangerous journey for a chance at freedom.
Cellphone video on Sunday captured family members embracing on the side of a road in Key Largo.
David Gonzalez Milanes said he and his wife drove 30 miles from Homestead after receiving an early morning call about their loved ones.
“I feel happy. We’d been suffering for eight days waiting because we hadn’t heard from them. They left Cuba January 1st,” he said through a translator.
Like many others, Gonzalez Milanes and his loved ones have been waiting outside the U.S. Customs and Border Protection station in Marathon.
“Eight hours waiting. Officials told us that they would process them, then contact us with their decision,” he said, “but they told my wife that they would not be deported.”
Charles Espinosa said he drove down from Miami after hearing his friends could be amid those who arrived on Sunday. All they can do is wait.
“[They] are risking their lives to come; it’s sad,” he said.
The migrant repatriations come days after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order activating the state’s National Guard and directing law enforcement and other state agencies to provide resources to support local governments responding to the influx of migrants, his office said in a news release.
“The true backbone of any government organization is to protect the safety of the citizens of its state,” said Florida Department of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie.
On Sunday, Guthrie described the state assets that helped agencies with this weekend’s migrant landings.
“Twenty troopers from the Florida Highway Patrol, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission is sending about another 25,” he said. “We could be in this posture for quite some time.”
Last week, the National Park Service announced it was temporarily closing Dry Tortugas National Park in the Florida Keys to the public due to an influx of migrants from Cuba.
In a news release, the service said the park would be closed for several days “while law enforcement and medical personnel evaluate, provide care for and coordinate transport to Key West for approximately 300 migrants who arrived in the park over the past couple of days.”
The park is about 70 miles (113 kilometers) west of Key West and is only accessibly by boat or seaplane.
“Like elsewhere in the Florida Keys, the park has recently seen an increase in people arriving by boat from Cuba and landing on the islands of Dry Tortugas National Park,” the park service said.
The park’s closure “is necessary for the safety of visitors and staff because of the resources and space needed to attend to the migrants,” the park service said.
The agency announced Sunday the park would reopen at 8 a.m. on Monday.
The Coast Guard said its crews interdicted 4,795 Cubans since October 1, 2022, compared to 6,182 Cuban migrants in all of fiscal year 2022, 838 Cuban migrants in fiscal year 2021 and 49 Cuban migrants in fiscal year 2020.
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