DANIA BEACH, Fla. – Rujaina Espino was among the Cubans who were recently stranded at the Dry Tortugas National Park. The U.S. Coast Guard transported her and over 330 others to Key West Thursday.
Chartered buses took Espino and the others to U.S. Border Patrol stations. She walked out of the Dania Beach station on Friday night to find her boyfriend Luis Espinosa waiting with red and yellow roses.
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Espinosa said he had not seen Espino since he left Pinar del Rio about four months ago. The couple dreams of a future together in the U.S., and away from the misery they left behind.
“You can no longer live in Cuba,” Espinosa said about the cause of the ongoing exodus.
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Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency and deployed the National Guard on Friday saying the increase in maritime migration has “created an unmanageable strain on local resources and will continue to overburden the capabilities of local governments.”
Monroe County Mayor Craig Cates was among the local officials who reported the crisis has put a strain on local resources and they welcome the National Guard’s help, which includes planes and helicopters.
“Now they are coming all through the Keys,” Cates said. “The impact is real and the Sheriff is so concerned about not being able to provide the services for our residents that he normally provides ... We are hoping and sort of interpreted that they’re going to send help down here, resources.”
Cates also welcomed President Joe Biden’s announcement Thursday about a new program for refugees and asylum seekers from Cuba, Haiti, Venezuela, and Nicaragua that will require prior authorization through a process with a sponsor and a background check.
“That’s huge! If they start enforcing that, that will help us now,” Cates said. “Right now they know if they get to land, just like ‘wet-foot, dry-foot,’ they can stay.”
The migration has families in anguish in both Cuba and South Florida. Edenia Gonzalez waited outside of the Dania Beach station Thursday for news of her 27-year-old daughter Kirenia Gonzalez and her 11-year-old granddaughter Brianna Rodriguez, who both left Cuba on Dec. 31 in a boat.
“I am scared,” the grandmother said through tears.
There has been a sharp increase in U.S. Border Patrol nationwide encounters in the U.S. with migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela during the last two years, according to federal data. U.S.-Mexico border states California and Texas have recorded more encounters than Florida.
- After there were 14,015 nationwide encounters with Cuban migrants in the fiscal year 2020, these increased to 39,303 in 2021, and 224,607 in 2022. Already this fiscal year, in October and November, there were 65,731, including 2,014 in Florida, 4,712 in California, 19,438 in Arizona, and 39,342 in Texas.
- After there were 5,291 nationwide encounters with Haitian migrants in the fiscal year 2020, these increased to 48,727 in 2021, and 56,596 in 2022. Already this fiscal year, in October and November, there were 12,591, including 71 in Florida, 1,666 in California, and 10,461 in Texas.
- After there were 3,164 nationwide encounters with Nicaraguan migrants in the fiscal year 2020, these increased to 50,722 in 2021, and 164,600 in 2022. Already this year, there were 55,279, including 37 in Florida, 2,435 in California, 3,830 in Arizona, and 48,880 in Texas.
- After there were 4,520 nationwide encounters with Venezuelan migrants in the fiscal year 2020, these increased to 50,499 in 2021, and 189,520 in 2022. Already this year, there were 36,237, including 398 in California, 1,477 in Arizona, 4,218 in Florida, and 28,872 in Texas.
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