On July 13, 2021, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas spoke about U.S. Maritime Migrant Interdiction Operations at a DHS press briefing. See below for the Secretary’s remarks:
Thank you for being here today. DHS is closely monitoring conditions on the ground in Haiti and Cuba. The Biden-Harris Administration and the Department of Homeland Security are committed to supporting the Haitian people. DHS recently sent 3 officials as part of an inter-agency delegation to Haiti in response to the Haitian government’s request for security and investigative assistance. We are committed to supporting the Haitian government as it seeks justice in this case and we affirm the United States’ support for the people of Haiti.
We also stand in solidarity with the Cuban people and their call for freedom from the repression and economic suffering that the Cuban’s authoritarian regime is causing. DHS is working with our partners to support the Haitian and Cuban people.
The Coast Guard, along with our state, local, and federal partners are monitoring any activity that may indicate increases in unsafe and irregular maritime migration in the Florida straits, including unpermitted vessel departures from Florida to Cuba.
The time is never right to attempt migration by sea. To those who risk their lives doing so, this risk is not worth taking. Allow me to be clear: if you take to the Sea, you will not come to the United States.
Homeland Security Task Force Southeast, headed by the Coast Guard's Seventh District Commander, is responsible for the DHS response to maritime migration. This task force has been in place for more than 18 years and it exists to prevent and respond to maritime migration in the Caribbean. Our mission and operations in the Southeast remain unchanged and we will continue to interdict migrants attempting to enter the United States irregularly.
The Coast Guard maintains a continual presence in the Florida straits and the Caribbean Sea, particularly around Puerto Rico and our maritime approaches, patrolling with air and sea military assets. Any migrant intercepted at sea, regardless of their nationality, will not be permitted to enter the United States. Migrants who do attempt to enter the United States by sea put their lives at incredible risk. The waters in the straits of Florida in the Caribbean are dangerous, especially now as we have entered hurricane season. People will die.
The transit is dangerous and unforgiving. We have seen 20 lives lost in recent weeks, as a result of these dangerous voyages. In addition, the threat of serious illness when boarding vessels in subpar conditions is greater at this time, during a pandemic.
The Coast Guard recently sent two cutters to the coast of Haiti, in addition to three others already in nearby waters. Our priority is to preserve and save lives. Even during the current pandemic, the Coast Guard maintains a continual presence in the Florida straits in the Caribbean Sea, particularly around Puerto Rico as I mentioned, and our maritime approaches, patrolling with air and sea military assets.
In May, I announced the designation of Haiti for Temporary Protected Status -- TPS -- for 18 months. Let me be clear, TPS is not an immigration program. It only benefits Haitian nationals who are already in the United States at the time of designation. TPS eligibility applies only to those Haitians who are already residing in the United States as of May 21, 2021 and who meet all other requirements.
Again, I repeat: do not risk your life attempting to enter the United States illegally. You will not come to the United States.
We, the Department of Homeland Security, and this Administration remain committed to supporting the Haitian and the Cuban people, and we will continue our efforts in this regard.