Migrants treated for dehydration, lack of food after landing in Fort Pierce

Published: Nov. 18, 2022 at 10:15 AM EST
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Twenty-five migrants are in federal custody after their vessel ran into a boat ramp in Fort Pierce on Thursday evening.

St. Lucie County deputies believe all or most of the people are from Haiti.

It's not often you see a migrant landing in a boat, a sizeable sport fisher, that is made for the open seas.

Thursday's voyage ended when the boat ran aground at the boat ramps at South Causeway Park.

Chief Deputy Brian Hester said 12 women, eight men, and three children between the ages of 10 and 17 years old ran ashore from the boat.

A 911 caller reported seeing possibly 50 people run from the vessel.

"I can't say for sure that no one slipped through," Hester said.

The immigrants were soaking wet from having to swim to shore.

Hester said the first deputy to respond took four people into custody.

That deputy then called for air and marine backup. Deputies around the area detained the others.

"One of them made a statement that she was from Haiti and that she was coming to America for a better life," Hester said.

They were given water and blankets and had their vitals checked.

A jail van was the only mode of transport immediately available that could fit everyone, so they were taken to the jail for a meal and then moved to local hospitals for medical care.

"[The immigrants were suffering from] dehydration, lack of food, seasickness, things like that," Hester said. "Vomiting, you know, stuff that would go along with being on a long journey without adequate supplies."

The sheriff's office later took them to a border patrol facility in Riviera Beach.

"While this may be a controversial topic for a lot of people, I think that this indicates that we can protect our borders and we can do it humanely and treat people and individuals with dignity while we're protecting our borders," Hester said. "They were not deprived of medical attention, food, water, any of the necessities for the needs they had as humans when they arrived here on shore."

The boat, named Cross Star, was from Boynton Beach, but the sheriff's office is not sure who owns the vessel. It was searched, but deputies did not find any weapons or drugs.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection confirmed that all of the migrants will be interviewed and processed for removal proceedings.

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