Coast Guard intercepts 6,000 Cubans in past year, the highest on record

Coast Guard intercepts 6,000 Cubans in past year, the highest on record

The agency says the US Coast Guard has intercepted more than 6,000 Cubans in the past year, the most in a single year since the 1990s.

We've seen this before. It's a natural phenomenon. Walter Slosar, chief patrol agent for the Miami Sector, said that seeing the uptick for us is really concerning and the fact that more people are on non-so-so seaworthy vessels are putting a significant amount of those individuals at very dangerous risk for loss of life.

Recent unrest, persecution, and shortages of basic goods have pushed more to leave the island, which has been on the island for years.

Individuals have come to us with stories of being persecuted by the local government for not agreeing with the local and communist policy of the island. David Claros, director of Immigration Legal Services Southeast Region at Church World Service, said they're hiring additional staff to meet the demand because they're not just about them but also many stories of family members, friends who have been apprehended and detained for minor, non-criminal offenses.

The photo that captivated the world Patrols here are complicated by the varying terrain, which requires coordination among agencies on land, air, and sea. CNN recently joined the Coast Guard, the US Border Patrol and the US Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations. The agencies will work together to identify and interdict migrants so they can be repatriated. They're brought into Border Patrol custody if they make landfall. The Coast Guard tries to intercept migrants before they make it to the US coast, but thousands have made it to shore. Nearly 3,600 were arrested in the Miami Sector this fiscal year, which covers more than 1,200 miles of Florida's coast, up from just over 1,000 last year. Authorities encounter a wide variety of vessels out at sea and shore, ranging from surfboards tied together and boats with limited provisions and no navigation system for what is often a days-long journey. A Coast Guard patrol troopers saw a makeshift vessel at sea with about eight people, just an hour into it. It's not just Cubans. There are increasing numbers of Haitian migrants traveling by sea, which is why officials are having to deal with them. The Coast Guard has responded to incidents of large sail freighters carrying hundreds of Haitian migrants, putting those on board at great risk. The conditions on board were horrible, said Mark Lamphere, a marine interdiction agent, recalling a vessel that arrived at the Florida coast this year. There were reports of injured people in the hull, so I had to jump down there and it was just obvious standing room only, he said. There were two hundred of them packed in there and they would defecate and urinate right where they were standing. Slosar acknowledged the need for resources to address the new trends. We're all working with finite resources, and you don't know who's on that boat. It is our mission to understand who is coming into the country. It takes our agents time to bring them into our custody, make sure they are healthy and that they are fed and that they're safe, and then identify who they are, he said.