Red Banyan Group client AILA South Florida had a member prominently quoted in a piece in the South Florida Sun Sentinel this week. AILA member, immigration lawyer, and executive director of Catholic Legal Services in Miami Randy McGrorty was called upon to provide expert commentary on migrant landings along South Florida’s coastline.
Check out the full piece below:
Migrant landings increasing along coastline, border patrol says
13 migrants detained early Monday in latest South Florida incident
A journey that started more than 700 miles away ended in detention for another group of Haitian migrants, this time in Highland Beach, early Monday.
Authorities tracked down 13 migrants who came ashore in the 2700 block of South Ocean Boulevard at about 3 a.m. Border Patrol spokesman Frank Miller said eight men and five women arrived in good condition on a small boat from the Bahamas.
Whether any of them are the smugglers is under investigation and no one has been charged with smuggling, he said.
This latest incident comes weeks after one woman drowned while she and 19 other Haitians were trying to make it ashore on Hillsboro Beach in Broward County on Aug. 25.
It’s a scene played out frequently on Florida beaches.
Miller said he’s seen an increase in the number of migrants being smuggled to the area but the reasons, whether they’re based on economic conditions or motivated by political unrest, are unknown.
In Haiti, poverty and disease are often a motivating factor. In addition to 58.7 percent of the country living in poverty, according to the latest World Bank data in 2012, Haiti also has more than 65,000 possible cases of the mosquito-borne virus, chikungunya, according to recently published news reports.
But regardless of the reason, U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Mark Fedor, chief of law enforcement for Miami’s 7th District, said in earlier published reports that the growing numbers are a concern.
“We are seeing right now, with Cubans and Haitians, the highest levels we’re seen in past five years,” he said after the Aug. 25 incident.
Randy McGrorty, an immigration lawyer and executive director of Catholic Legal Services in Miami, said that despite any short-term increase in migrant landings, over the long term, the number of Haitian immigrants arriving by boat in South Florida is still lower than the numbers in the years before the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
“In no way are we approaching the averages from the years before the earthquake,” McGrorty said, citing data from the U.S. Coast Guard.
McGrorty said that the 2010 Haitian earthquake likely stalled the number of migrants because so many Haitians were left homeless, they were consumed by their immediate survival needs, but also because there was a larger calling to stay and help rebuild the country.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, they detained 28 Haitians in July. The number jumped to 127 in August but both numbers are still less than the 240 detained in November.
Statistics also show that the Coast Guard detained 252 Cubans last month, along with 359 Cubans in July.
From October to August, the Coast Guard has detained 3,131 migrants. While that number might seem high, it pales in comparison to 2004, when 10,899 migrants were detained. Of those, 3,229 were Haitian and 5,014 were from the Dominican Republic.
The 2004 coup that toppled Haiti’s president and caused chaos across the country likely played a factor in the several-year’s-long spike of migrants from that country trying to make it to the United States, McGrorty said.
He added that in the past five years, immigration advocates have noticed a disturbing change in the way immigrants are smuggled into the country. Whereas in years past the smugglers were often freelancers who owned a boat and wanted to make some quick cash, increasingly, smugglers are part of a larger, sophisticated operation.
“These are organized criminal enterprises with absolutely no heart,” McGrorty said.
The Border Patrol asks anyone who has any information on human or drug smuggling to call 877-772-8146. Tips can remain anonymous.