Haitian migrant vessel aground in John Pennekamp State Park, Key Largo.

Haitian migrant vessel aground in John Pennekamp State Park, Key Largo.

On January 6, 2023, Governor Ron DeSantis signed EO 23-03 declaring a State of Emergency in response to the surge in migration along Florida’s coastline, activating the Florida National Guard, directing state law enforcement agencies and other state agencies to provide resources in support of local governments responding to the influx of migrants landing in the Florida Keys and providing additional support toward efforts to prevent further migrant landings on Florida’s shores.

“The Division remains in close communication with local governments and our law enforcement partners to address resource needs and support our communities in every way we can,” said FDEM Director Kevin Guthrie. “We will continue to deploy all available resources and manpower to respond to the unprecedented level of migrant landings on our shores.”

The Florida Division of Emergency Management activated the State Emergency Operations Center to a Level 2 at 10 a.m. on January 7th, 2023, to facilitate the coordination of state assets.

As of January 10, 2023, over 300 vessels have been identified for removal accounting for 299 landings and 5,184 migrants.

The Homeland Security Task Force Southeast (HSTF-SE) transitioned from Phase 1a: Steady State and Surge – Preparation to Phase 1b: Steady State and Surge – Prevention in support of Operation Vigilant Sentry (OVS) on August 21st, 2022. The Division has remained an active member of this Task Force in support of their objectives to prevent loss of life at sea and to deter maritime migration.

Currently, the Division is working in tandem with the Florida National Guard, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Florida Highway Patrol to increasecoastal vigilance and provide improved situational awareness on migrant activities.

State actions include:

Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM)

• FDEM is leading the coordination of state assets for the mass migration response, including power resources to assist with power to command posts, two pallets of bottled water, and 250 Meals Ready-to-Eat (MREs) to be used by responding FWC Officers for distribution to affected migrants.

Florida National Guard

• The Florida National Guard is mobilizing 12 air assets and 100-150 National Guardsman to coordinate operational efforts with the U.S. Coast Guard and FWC aviation teams.

• The Florida National Guard will bolster FWC marine patrol to support water interdictions and ensure the safety of migrants attempting to reach Florida through the Florida Straits.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)

• FWC is on-scene with two vessels, the Gulf Sentry and the Fearless, patrolling and assisting U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection with migrant landings around the Marquesas Keys and the Dry Tortugas.

• FWC Aviation is conducting routine flights in support of local, state and federal partners.

• A base camp and command posts have been established in Marathon and Key West for FWC personnel.

• Fifteen additional FWC officers and one mechanic are en route to provide additional support in Marathon and Key West.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE)

• FDLE has nearly two dozen members deployed in Monroe County and a mobile command bus has been established.

• The first wave of law enforcement began arriving in the Florida Keys on Saturday, January 7, 2023, and additional deployments will continue as necessary.

Florida Highway Patrol (FHP)

• FHP has deployed 25 troopers, two fixed-wing aircrafts and one mobile command bus in support of ongoing operations.

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