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At least 356 Haitian migrants traveled on a packed wooden boat to the coast of the Ocean Reef community in Key Largo, Florida, on March 6, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
CBP took custody of 158 people who swam to the shore from the vessel, per Alan Regalado, public affairs specialist for Florida’s CBP. The 198 Haitians remaining on the boat were stopped and transferred to U.S. Coast Guard boats.
It’s [a] really, really dangerous [trek],especially because of the conditions — I mean, over 300 people in one vessel? I mean, they’re just not equipped for that trip,” Regalado told ABC News. He continued, “Not only that, but the smuggling organizations and everything that migrants have to go through in the process — it’s just not a safe thing to do.”
While safety may be questionable, the fact that over 350 Haitians packed themselves on a small wooden boat to travel over choppy waters speaks to their collective desperation for a better life. Yet, their welcome was far from warm.
Throughout history, Black people have had to save themselves when others wouldn’t. Even present-day, fleeing Africans in Ukraine have banded together to avoid numerous reports of discrimination from Ukrainian officials.
In September 2021 the White House criticized the use of horse reins to threaten Haitian migrants after images circulated of a U.S. border guard on horseback charging at migrants near a riverside camp in Texas.
Though Haitians declared their independence in 1804, the U.S. didn’t recognize Haiti as a country until 1862, enforcing a trade embargo. France’s extortion of Haiti, political upheaval, a devastating 2016 Hurricane, worker strikes, and a recent presidential assassination are just a few reasons that many native Haitians have fled the first Black republic over the years.
In the past week, the Coast Guard has stopped two other Haitian boats navigating near the Bahamas with dozens of migrants aboard. As the Western world opens its welcoming arms to panicked and desperate Ukrainians, Haitians are routinely rejected and told to go back where they came from.