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MPs stopped a truck carrying a boat in the Keys.  What they found next concerned


A roadside check on US 1 in Marathon early Monday morning led to the discovery of 32 suspected Cuban migrants, according to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.

The department said a sheriff’s office sergeant stopped a rental truck carrying a boat after noticing it was traveling below the speed limit.

Inside the truck were four adults and three young children. The children, aged 1, 4 and 5, did not wear seat belts or car seats, according to the sheriff’s office. The sergeant also noted that there was an “overwhelming smell of salt water and body odor”.

And by boat?

There were more than two dozen people hiding in a room at the front of the boat, the sheriff’s office said. Among those found: A 17-year-old and two pregnant women.

The driver of the truck, Reidel Garcia-Espino, 29, of Seffner, FL was arrested and charged with child neglect because the children were not tied up. Garcia-Espino told MPs they went fishing – but according to the sheriff’s office there was no equipment in the boat.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Homeland Security Investigations, as well as Key Colony Beach Police and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission responded.

The suspected migrants have been taken into custody by US Customs and Border Protection.

It has been a busy few days for border patrol in the Keys. On Sunday morning, a group of 17 people from Cuba landed on Smathers Beach in Key West. A Key West resident filmed the landing with his cell phone camera.

Also on Sunday, four Cuban migrants arrived near Bahia Honda State Park near Big Pine Key, about 36 miles north of Key West.

On Thursday, a group of 13 Cuban migrants were taken into custody shortly after arriving in Big Pine Key.

Sea migration from Cuba to southern Florida has increased significantly this year. Federal officials track migration by fiscal year, which begins and ends in October.

In all of fiscal 2020, the Coast Guard said it arrested a total of 49 people from Cuba who were trying to make the dangerous journey through the Strait of Florida.

In fiscal year 2021, the number was just under 840 people, according to the Coast Guard.

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