The number of migrants, mostly from Haiti, intercepted by the U.S. Coast Guard has surged in recent weeks. The Coast Guard regularly patrols the waters looking for migrants as they make their way through often dangerous conditions in their attempt to make it to South Florida.
NBC 6 was invited to observe a patrol that departed Wednesday from the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station in Opa-Locka. It didn’t take long before the crew spotted a vessel filled with migrants.
The flight through the Florida Straits is part of the Coast Guard’s regular patrol. Just 30 minutes after takeoff, about 80 miles east of the Florida Keys, the crew found a vessel believed to have originated from Haiti with over 220 migrants on board.
Lt. Brent Schiffer is in charge of the Mobile, Alabama-based crew. The crew is in South Florida to provide backup for local crews because the U.S. Coast Guard has had to significantly increase their presence due to the surge.
More than ten cutters and five aircraft are consistently patrolling the Florida Straits on any given week.