Boat drops 17 undocumented immigrants at Hillsboro Beach, say police

Two children among group, who are believed to be Haitian


By Ken Kaye, Brett Clarkson and Joe Cavaretta, Sun Sentinel
7:07 p.m. EDT, June 29, 2014

After being smuggled by boat to the shores of Hillsboro Beach before dawn, 17 immigrants, most Haitian, were taken into custody on Sunday.

The smuggler, who picked up the immigrants in the Bahamas, quickly escaped before U.S. authorities could intercept him, said Frank Miller, operations officer for the Miami Sector Headquarters of the U.S. Border Patrol.

"We believe the suspected smuggler made it back to the Bahamas after he dropped off the immigrants," he said.

Among the group were eight men, seven females and two boys, ages 2 and 10, both accompanied by their parents. While 15 were from Haiti, one man was from Jamaica and one woman was from Ecuador. All were believed to be undocumented. None needed medical attention.

"They all appear to be in good health," said Lt. James Pugliese of the Hillsboro Beach Police.

The immigrants were dropped off about 5 a.m. about a mile north of the Hillsboro lighthouse, where a motorist saw them and called police. Authorities said they think all of the people on the boat were caught.

The immigrants were taken to the Border Patrol station in Dania Beach, where they were interviewed and given background checks to see if they have a criminal history in the United States. They now will be "processed for removal back to their countries," Miller said.

While awaiting deportation, the male immigrants were to be transported to the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement's Krome Service Processing Center in Miami, while the women were to be taken to the Broward Transitional Center, an ICE facility in Pompano Beach.

Miller said it's unknown where in the Bahamas the smuggler picked up the immigrants, but authorities are hoping to learn more about the boat and the smuggling operation.

"We're still investigating everything at this point," he said.

Sunday's arrival of immigrants was similar to an incident three weeks ago. On June 8, police apprehended 17 people, including an infant and two juveniles, after they were smuggled by boat to Palm Beach County.

As was the case on Sunday, all were believed to be Haitian, all were in good health, and all apparently attempted to make it into the United States by way of the Bahamas.

In that case, however, the smugglers abandoned their boat in Delray Beach, and the immigrants left footprints in the sand, allowing authorities to track them to a mangrove area in Ocean Ridge.

In January, at least 20 immigrants, most Haitian, attempted to be smuggled into South Florida; while some went accounted for, at least one drowned in the rough surf and others had to be rescued by city lifeguards., 561-243-6609 or Twitter @BrettClarkson_,6022146.story