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Surge in Haitian migrants hasn't hit Florida shores, so far. What happened?

Anthony Man, South Florida Sun Sentinel on

Published in News & Features

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The predictions were dire: Florida was on the verge of experiencing an onslaught of refugees from Haiti, driven by widespread gang-fueled lawlessness to make the perilous overwater voyage of hundreds of miles seeking safety in the U.S.

Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered the mobilization of Florida personnel and equipment to supplement the federal response from the Coast Guard and other agencies.

“Given the situation in Haiti,” the governor declared in his mid-March announcement, he ordered more than 250 law enforcement officers, National Guardsmen and soldiers from several state agencies to South Florida and the Keys. Such actions are necessary, his office said, “when a state faces the possibility of invasion.”

A month later, it turns out there hasn’t been an invasion — or a noticeable change in Haitians arriving in Florida by boat. There isn’t agreement about why it didn’t come to pass.

In March, DeSantis reiterated the warning about what could be on the way to Florida in a Fox News appearance and told a conservative podcast host he might send Haitian refugees arriving in Florida to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, the way he did with Venezuelan asylum seekers in 2022.

Democratic elected officials were also concerned. A week after DeSantis’ move all the Democrats in the Florida congressional delegation warned about “the potential mass migration from Haiti to Florida.”

 

Their priority — advancing funding for a multinational security force for Haiti — was different, but they said action was needed to “help keep the Haitian people safe and Florida secure.”

No surge

The surge never happened.

“There’s no mass exodus,” said Ronald Surin, a former vice president of the Haitian Lawyers Association, an assessment shared in interviews with other Haitian American community leaders and elected officials in South Florida.

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©2024 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Visit sun-sentinel.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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