MIAMI — Homeland Security Task Force – Southeast enhanced its operational posture and readiness to address a recent increase in irregular maritime migration originating from the Bahamas and Cuba through the Florida Straits, from Haiti through the Windward Pass, and from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico through the Mona Pass.
Task Force partners are increasing patrols and enforcement by land, air and sea, day and night.
HSTF-SE is a Department of Homeland Security-led, standing interagency task force responsible for deterring, preventing, and responding to illegal maritime migration under Operation Vigilant Sentry. The primary objectives of the Task Force are to prevent loss of life at sea and to deter and dissuade maritime migration using DHS forces, reinforced by other federal, state, and local assets and capabilities.
“Illegal maritime voyages in the Caribbean are always dangerous and very often deadly,” said Rear Adm. Brendan C. McPherson, Commander, Seventh Coast Guard District and Director, HSTF-SE. “Smugglers routinely exploit vulnerable migrants for profit while putting their lives at risk aboard overloaded and unseaworthy vessels. These dangerous voyages must not be attempted. Safe, legal, and orderly migration saves lives.”
OVS is HSTF-SE’s comprehensive, integrated, national operational plan for a rapid, effective, and unified response of federal, state, and local capabilities in response to maritime migration in the Caribbean. OVS describes the basic organization and structure by which the Task Force will deploy resources and coordinate multi-agency operations to address illegal maritime migration patterns in the Southeast region of North America. The plan allows for the task force to adjust resources and posture as necessary based upon illegal maritime migration trends.
“The U.S. Border Patrol Miami Sector is committed to working alongside our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners in a whole-of-government effort to prepare for and address any potential increases in irregular maritime migration or border security threats in Florida,” said Walter N. Slosar, Chief Patrol Agent for Border Patrol Miami Sector and deputy director, HSTF-SE.
The Coast Guard and federal partners maintain a continual presence with land, air and sea assets in the Florida Straits and in the Caribbean Sea, as part of a multi-layered approach to interdict migrants attempting to enter the U.S. Those without a legal basis in the United States will be removed.
In 2003, the DHS established HSTF-SE for the purpose of responding to maritime migration events in the Caribbean. The Task Force provides the organizational framework to detect maritime migration indicators, monitor maritime migration trends, and conduct joint training, exercises, and planning. Members of the Task Force include the U.S. Coast Guard, the departments of Defense, State, Justice, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Transportation Security Administration, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Secret Service, and state and local agencies including representatives from FDEM, FDLE, Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.
HSTF-SE represents an all-of-government approach. CBP-AMO officers embarked on aircraft and boats work alongside Coast Guard units to detect and interdict illegal maritime migrant ventures. CBP-OFO officers and USBP agents coordinate efforts with maritime branches to detect and interdict migrants who land on Florida beaches and U.S. islands and territories in the Caribbean. HSI special agents specifically target individuals who are involved in human smuggling events and investigate the transnational criminal organizations that profit from these illegal activities. U.S. Public Health Service officers from the ICE Health Service Corps Special Operations Unit work with the Coast Guard and provide medical care to migrants on board Coast Guard vessels and treat any immediate needs.
The Coast Guard is simultaneously a federal law enforcement agency and a branch of the military. Among its 11 statutory missions, the Coast Guard is charged with the enforcement of U.S. immigration law and U.S. government policy to secure our maritime borders and prevent illegal migration attempts by sea. People trying to enter the country illegally by sea will be interdicted and repatriated to their country of origin or the country they departed from, consistent with U.S. law, policies, and international treaty obligations.