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US Immigration Officials to Deport 13 Haitians Arrested in Florida

Two vessels seized by US Border Patrol agents in Florida and linked to a 'maritime smuggling event.' (Twitter photo)
Two vessels seized by US Border Patrol agents in Florida and linked to a 'maritime smuggling event.' (Twitter photo)

U.S. Immigration officials are planning to deport to Haiti 13 Haitian nationals who were arrested in Florida along with a U.S. citizen.

The U.S. Embassy in Haiti announced the arrests Thursday in a series of tweets posted in English and Haitian Creole.

"The suspected smuggler was also identified. Both vessels involved in the incident will be seized. An investigation by #DHS partners remains ongoing," the tweet said.

Adam Hoffner of the U.S. Border Patrol Miami Sector said agents responding to "a maritime smuggling event" found seven Haitian males and six females and a U.S. citizen on the shores of Dania Beach at the Cozy Cove Marina.

In a joint effort with federal agents, the group was taken into Border Patrol custody.

"The Haitian nationals were interviewed and processed for removal proceedings and subsequently turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – Enforcement Removal Operations (ERO)," Hoffner told VOA via email.

"The U.S. Border Patrol is investigating this case alongside our Department of Homeland Security (DHS) partners and will seek to prosecute any individuals who are identified as smugglers," Hoffner said.

Two vessels that were determined to be involved in the incident were also seized by U.S. Border Patrol.

"We continuously warn migrants about the dangers associated with traveling by sea," Hoffner said. "Smuggling organizations are not concerned with the safety of the people they are smuggling, rather they continue to put the lives of migrants at risk."

The Biden administration has faced criticism from the Haitian American community in Miami for failing to deliver on promises made during the 2020 election campaign to reverse some of President Donald Trump's immigration policies.

On Feb. 24, U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton, a Trump appointee, indefinitely banned the Biden administration from enforcing a 100-day moratorium on deportations.

Biden is proposing changes in the nation's immigration laws that would allow 11 million people currently living illegally in the United States to be legalized.

Haiti Ambassador to the United States Bocchit Edmond called on the Biden administration to work with Congress to find a more permanent solution.

"We appreciate the efforts made by the Biden administration to get a 100-day moratorium on deportations. While we respect the last ruling of a federal judge on this issue, we do hope that the Biden administration with the help of the U.S. Congress will find a final resolution to this very sensitive issue impacting a number of Haitians. The human impact should be considered," Edmond told VOA.