Florida deploys extra security to state’s southern border amid Haiti chaos

Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is sending extra security to the state’s southern tip in anticipation of a potential influx of migrants from Haiti.

Haiti has been in a state of emergency ever since violent gangs stormed the airport, seaport and prison earlier this month, setting thousands of inmates free. Several police stations have also been torched. The state of emergency is expected to last until 3 April.

Global leaders, including US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, are working to form a transitional government in the country after Prime Minister Ariel Henry resigned from his post this week.

The US has a history of intercepting migrant boats from Haiti. Earlier this week, the US Coast Guard encountered 65 migrants off the coast of Florida and sent them back to the troubled country. During the fiscal year 2024, which began in October, the US has sent back 131 migrants to Haiti.

“For quite some time, the State of Florida has been dedicating significant resources to combat illegal vessels coming to Florida from countries such as Haiti,” Mr DeSantis said in a statement.

“Given the circumstances in Haiti, I have directed the Division of Emergency Management, the Florida State Guard and state law enforcement agencies to deploy over 250 additional officers and soldiers and over a dozen air and sea craft to the southern coast of Florida to protect our state.”

The statement continued: “No state has done more to supplement the (under-resourced) US Coast Guard’s interdiction efforts; we cannot have illegal aliens coming to Florida...When a state faces the possibility of invasion, it has the right and duty to defend its territory and people.”

According to data from the Migrant Policy Institute, US authorities encountered Haitian migrants more than 76,100 times in fiscal year 2023. From 2019 to 2021, Haitians were the top nationality to cross the Darien Gap, a dangerous passage point popular with migrants between Colombia and Panama.

In the last two years, Haitians were among the three largest migrant groups. Individuals fleeing the country may qualify for asylum if they can prove they’re at risk of persecution due to their race, religion, nationality, social group or political opinion.

Haitians won’t be able to seek shelter in their neighbouring Dominican Republic as the country has closed its land, sea and air borders to Haiti.

Alix Desulme, the Haitian-American mayor of North Miami, the city with the highest concentration of Haitians in the country, disagreed with Mr DeSantis’ points.

“It’s a humanitarian crisis. It’s almost going to be a civil war,” said Desulme while speaking with CBS News Miami this week.

“There might be some influx of Haitians coming to the US. There’s no invasion.” Mr Delsume added that he’s willing to have a conversation with Mr DeSantis about what needs to be done to address the issue, but resents that the Republican did not enquire about what could be done to support people of Haitian descent in Florida.

“To put out this invasion of illegal immigrants is not right,” Mr Delsume said.