Haulover Beach

Authorities Find Boat Used in Human Smuggling Operation

More than 20 people were detained after a large group of migrants came ashore in Haulover Beach Wednesday

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Homeland Security Investigation officials in Miami say authorities were able to catch the boat involved in Wednesday’s migrant smuggling operation.

The agency credits real-time intelligence, using video captured by a beachgoer and sending that information to their counterparts in the Bahamas, where they made an arrest. 

“As part of the investigation, we utilized real-time intelligence and were able to collaborate with our partners in the Bahamas,” said Deputy Special Agent in Charge Derek Gordon with Homeland Security Investigation in Miami. “Upon that vessel returning to the Bahamas, they were able to interdict the vessel and make apprehensions in Bimini.”

Wednesday morning, people near Haulover Beach witnessed a smuggling operation happen firsthand, as some 20 Haitian migrants made their way ashore. The US. Border Patrol says they arrested 21 people. 

Gordon says the boat used in the operation was caught a short time later that day and has been used in past smuggling operations. 

Human smuggling — which is different from human trafficking, where a person is coerced or taken against their will — is a huge business. According to a Rand Corporation study, it estimated human smuggling into the US generated anywhere from $200 million to $2.3 billion in 2017.

“It’s a very large business,” said Gordon. “And again, it’s not something where we can put one boat in the water from one agency and expect to solve the problem.”

Gordon’s department is tasked with finding the criminal organizations running these smuggling operations and stopping them. Many smugglers use the Bahamas as a jump-off point to the U.S., which is only a couple of hours away by boat. 

Officials said 21 people were taken into custody after a boat carrying migrants came ashore in Haulover Beach.

“That’s one of our main challenges here in South Florida due to the close proximity to the Bahamas and the vulnerability that causes to the homeland,” Gordon said.

Gordon says the number of migrants coming to the U.S. fluctuates, depending on a number of factors. It’s hard to get a current estimate, but data from the Migration Policy Institute found that in 2019, about 75,000 undocumented migrants in Florida came from the Caribbean. That’s about 10% of the undocumented population in the state. But the majority come from Mexico, as well as Central and South America. 

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