After being overrun by hundreds of migrants, Dry Tortugas National Park in the Florida Keys was forced to close Monday.
According to the National Park Service, approximately 300 migrants arrived in the park’s remote northern part in the last few days. The closure was ordered by law enforcement officials while medical personnel coordinate transport to Key West for them.
Walter Slosar, Chief Agent of Border Patrol, tweeted photos Sunday showing migrants boarding makeshift boats to sail to the U.S.
𝙉𝙚𝙬 𝙔𝙚𝙖𝙧’𝙨 𝘿𝙖𝙮 𝙞𝙣 𝙁𝙡𝙤𝙧𝙞𝙙𝙖:
Over 160 migrants have been encountered today in the #Florida Keys. Border Patrol agents with support from federal, state, and local LE partners responded to 10 migrant landings since midnight. #Breaking_News #NewYear #NewYear2023 pic.twitter.com/Q4KkGqhduI
— Chief Patrol Agent Walter N. Slosar (@USBPChiefMIP) January 1, 2023
The park didn’t immediately give an estimate of the time it would be closed.
Officials didn’t specify where the migrants came from, but they did say that there was a recent rise in migrants coming from Cuba.
The National Park Service stated that “Like other areas in the Florida Keys,” there has been an increase in people coming by boat from Cuba to the park and landing on Dry Tortugas National Park’s islands. “Park first responders provide basic medical care and food until the Department of Homeland Security arrives.”
The national park is located about 100 miles north of Havana, Cuba’s capital. It is also a popular landing spot for Cubans fleeing their homeland. If the migrants are Cubans, they will most likely be repatriated.
Barack Obama’s final act as president ended a long-standing U.S. policy ensuring that Cuban migrants who arrive in the U.S. legally would be allowed to remain and receive citizenship. Obama ended the policy of “normalizing relations” with communist Cuba.
Monroe County Sheriff’s Office referred to the Dry Tortugas National Park situation as a “massive migration crisis” and blamed federal officials.
Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay stated in a statement that “This is a sign of a failure by the federal government, to deal with a massive migration issue that was predictable.”