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HomeNewsCaribbean NewsTask Force continues to prevent irregular, unlawful maritime migration to United States

Task Force continues to prevent irregular, unlawful maritime migration to United States

MIAMI, USA – Homeland Security Task Force – Southeast (HSTF-SE) federal, state and local partner agencies continue to patrol the Florida Straits, Windward Passage, Mona Passage and Caribbean Sea to prevent and deter irregular unlawful maritime migration to the United States.

Anyone attempting to unlawfully enter the United States by sea will be rescued and repatriated to their country of origin or departure, and anyone who arrives in the US unlawfully by sea will be processed for removal and returned to their country of origin or departure.

“Our DHS-led Task Force partners are postured to prevent and deter irregular maritime migration, respond to dangerous voyages of unseaworthy and overloaded vessels, and conduct humanitarian assistance at sea,” said Rear Adm. Douglas Schofield, HSTF-SE director and Coast Guard District Seven commander. “Our US maritime borders and not open and taking to the sea is not an option. Anyone desiring to come to the United States must do so through safe, legal pathways.”

As previously announced, anyone attempting to enter the US unlawfully by sea will be disqualified indefinitely from the legal immigration parole process for Cubans and Haitians announced in January 2023.

  • Regardless of nationality, migrants interdicted at sea by Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations (CBP-AMO), Coast Guard (USCG), or state law enforcement crews will be repatriated to their country of origin or returned to their country of departure by the Coast Guard.
  • Anyone who arrives unlawfully by sea to the mainland US or our territories will be apprehended by Border Patrol (USBP) and processed for removal to their country of origin by Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Enforcement and Removal Operations (ICE-ERO), with a five-year ban on reentry.
  • Suspected human smuggling events will be investigated by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) for prosecution by the Department of Justice (DOJ).
  • Customs and Border Protection Office of Field Operations (CBP-OFO) will continue to process airport and seaport arrivals, including Advanced Travel Authorizations.
  • The Task Force works continuously with Caribbean nations including The Bahamas, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and the Turks and Caicos Islands via US Embassy staffs and Coast Guard liaison officers to ensure maritime domain awareness and maintain maritime repatriation capabilities.
  • There are consequences for unlawful entry. Those who fail to use one of the many lawful, safe and orderly pathways the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has expanded and attempts to enter the United States unlawfully are presumed ineligible for asylum and, if they do not have a basis to remain, are subject to prompt removal, a minimum five-year bar on admission, and potential criminal prosecution for unlawful reentry.
  • Do not believe the lies of smugglers. Don’t take to the sea. Use lawful pathways.
  • Anyone who observes a potential migrant voyage at sea should immediately contact the Coast Guard via VHF radio channel 16. Report migrant landings to local law enforcement.
  • The public is encouraged to report suspected smuggling activity to HSI by calling 877-4HSITIP at (877) 447-4847. The HSI Tip Line is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Migrant interdiction operations. HSTF-SE partners interdicted 11,955 migrants of mixed nationalities in fiscal year 2023, the majority of whom were Cuban or Haitian. Anyone who unlawfully attempts to reach the United States by sea or who arrives by sea unlawfully will not be permitted to remain in the United States. They will be processed for return to their country of origin or departure, in accordance with US law, policies and international treaty obligations.

Migrants interdicted at sea are processed to determine their identity and are provided food, water, and basic medical attention they may need before repatriation to their country of origin. Migrants who enter the US unlawfully by sea will be handled in the same manner as they are in day-to-day interdiction operations. Migrants who land will be interdicted by law enforcement authorities and transferred to USBP custody, provided food, water and basic medical attention they need, before being transferred to ICE-ERO for return to their country of origin if unable to establish a legal basis to remain in the United States. HSTF-SE partners treat everyone we encounter with dignity and respect while enforcing US immigration laws and policy.

Irregular maritime migration routes. HSTF-SE and our foreign allied partners constantly monitor maritime traffic in the Caribbean and southern maritime approaches to the United States and our territories to defend our maritime borders from illicit trafficking and to prevent illegal entry. The primary transit routes include the north Florida Straits from The Bahamas to mainland Florida; the south Florida Straits from Cuba to mainland Florida and the Florida Keys; the Windward Passage from Haiti to the Turks and Caicos Islands, The Bahamas, and to south Florida; and the Mona Passage from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

Enhanced readiness posture. In response to previous increases in irregular, illegal maritime migration attempts within the Caribbean, HSTF-SE enhanced its operational posture and readiness in August 2022. The Task Force maintains a robust presence in the Florida Straits and Caribbean, and continually monitors the maritime domain for changes in the migrant flow rates and the geopolitical, social, economic and security environments of source nations which are among the factors that might influence maritime migration trends. This constant monitoring allows forces to adjust as necessary to meet the challenges associated with US maritime border security and enforcement of US law and policy at sea.

Operation Vigilant Sentry. OVS is the HSTF-SE operational plan to prevent, deter, prepare for, respond to, and recover from maritime migration events from Caribbean nations. OVS was first promulgated in 2004 and is one plan among many other contingency plans designed to meet national preparedness goals. OVS guidance and operational planning efforts are routinely reviewed, updated, and exercised as required under Homeland Security Presidential Directive Eight. OVS is not country-specific; rather it is designed to address maritime migration to the United States from any Caribbean nation.

Homeland Security Task Force – Southeast. HSTF-SE was established in 2003 and frequently coordinates efforts with international, federal, state and local partner agencies to strategically plan and coordinate efforts to respond to maritime migration events throughout the Caribbean. HSTF-SE is comprised of more than 50 federal, state and local agencies, and is designed to place personnel and assets at the disposal of the director of the Task Force in accordance with OVS. As a standing task force and a scalable operational plan, HSTF-SE and OVS are always actively in place and being exercised.

To learn more about the OVS mission, watch these videos:

USCG and HSTF-SE partners conduct Operation Vigilant Sentry mission in the Caribbean (
OVS maritime migration interdiction and repatriation b-roll video (
HSTF-SE maritime migration interdiction b-roll video (



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