Florida prepares for influx of Haitian migrants amidst ongoing humanitarian crisis

The crisis in Haiti has the potential to trigger a significant increase in migration to Florida, which would necessitate a response from state officials. This comes at a time when Florida has adopted a tougher stance on immigration, and with Congress facing challenges in reaching a consensus on border policy.

Florida lawmakers are already gearing up for an increase in the number of Haitian migrants and highlighting the potential risks to American security if the United States fails to provide more assistance to Haiti. Despite its limited status as a foreign policy priority, the situation in Haiti demands attention.

Violent gangs have taken over the island nation, leaving the people of Haiti struggling with food shortages and homelessness. The situation has resulted in the resignation of Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who will step down once an interim leader is appointed.

Over the years, due to the ongoing turmoil in the Caribbean country, Haitians have been compelled to embark on the perilous 700-mile journey by sea in order to escape to the shores of Florida, often finding refuge in the Keys. Presently, there are over 276,000 individuals residing in Florida who were born in Haiti. This includes state Representative Dotie Joseph, a Democrat representing North Miami. In the midst of the recent surge in violence, her cousins were uprooted from Port-au-Prince, and she also has friends who have experienced the harrowing ordeal of their loved ones being kidnapped and subsequently released.

“The instability in Haiti affects every Haitian, both in the country and around the world. It’s a deeply concerning issue that leaves us all feeling helpless, as we desperately want to assist but are uncertain about the best way to do so,” Joseph expressed. He acknowledged that Haitians have reservations about depending on international intervention, given the traumatic experience of the brutal U.S. occupation in 1915 and the subsequent abuses by the United Nations.

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During a press conference on Monday, U.S. Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, a Haitian-American Democrat from Florida, emphasized the urgent need for the U.S. to take action. She expressed concerns that failing to address the situation could pose a security risk within the country. While the U.S. has committed to providing $333 million in aid, a recent House Armed Services Committee hearing shed light on the fact that federal officials are preparing for the possibility of maritime migration, as revealed by Rebecca Zimmerman, a high-ranking Defense official, in response to questioning from U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.).

On Wednesday morning, Gov. Ron DeSantis took action to safeguard our state by instructing Florida’s Division of Emergency Management, the Florida State Guard, and state law enforcement to deploy an additional 250 officers and soldiers to Florida’s southern coast. In addition to this, he authorized the deployment of over a dozen air and sea craft vessels, emphasizing the need to augment the under-resourced U.S. Coast Guard’s interdiction efforts.

The governor’s office attributed the need for sending reinforcements to the Biden administration.

According to a statement from DeSantis’ office, illegal immigrants are emboldened to enter the United States’ sovereign territory due to the federal government’s lack of commitment to enforcing immigration laws and safeguarding border security. The announcement emphasizes that when a state is potentially facing an invasion, it has both the right and responsibility to protect its territory and its citizens.

In the event of a major crisis, DeSantis may find himself compelled to collaborate with President Joe Biden, despite their frequent disagreements on this matter. Approximately one year ago, following the turmoil that ensued after the assassination of Haitian president Jovenel Moïse, which had connections to Miami, DeSantis took the step of declaring a state of emergency. In response to the arrival of 130 Haitians and 500 Cubans in South Florida, he also mobilized the state National Guard. Additionally, tens of thousands of Haitians attempted to enter the United States through the Texas border during that period.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been unambiguous in his stance against mass migration, as demonstrated by his policy decisions. He took legal action against the Biden administration’s border policies and effectively deployed National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border. In addition, DeSantis made a significant move by relocating migrants from Texas to blue states. Furthermore, he signed a stringent measure into law, which increases the difficulty for individuals to work in Florida if they are living in the state illegally.

Joseph expressed concern about the reluctance of people to leave their home countries and seek refuge in a place that may not offer them a warm welcome. He emphasized that individuals often leave their homes due to severe issues and instability, which are, in part, caused by intervention and unsuccessful policies implemented by different countries, including the United States.

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