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US Coast Guard repatriates over 300 Caribbean migrants from Bahamas and Haiti

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U.S. Coast Guard crews returned a total of 305 migrants to the Bahamas and Haiti on Sunday and Monday following several at-sea interceptions of illegal migration attempts.

As part of Operation Vigilant Sentry, which is aimed at preventing and responding to illegal maritime migration in the Caribbean, the Coast Guard intercepted one group near Anguilla Cay in the Bahamas and two others near Cap-Haïtien and Île de la Tortue in Haiti, according to the USCG.

On Sunday, the USCG transferred 109 Haitians to the Royal Bahamas Defense Force after aircrews alerted Coast Guard Sector Key West about an attempted illegal migration near Anguilla Cay.

On Monday, 196 Haitian migrants were repatriated to Haiti after two interceptions at sea.

“Irregular maritime migration is unlawful and extremely dangerous,” said Lt. Nick Fujimoto, Coast Guard District Seven enforcement officer.

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“The Coast Guard urges any potential migrants considering the journey: don’t take to the sea and risk your life just to be sent back. Use the safe, orderly and lawful pathways available like the CHNV [Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans] process.”

Once aboard a Coast Guard cutter, migrants are processed to determine their identity and are provided food, water, shelter, and basic medical attention before repatriation to their country of origin or return to the country from which they departed.

Operation follows new immigration restrictions

The major operation last week came on the heels of President Joe Biden’s controversial that bars asylum for migrants who illegally enter the U.S. by land or sea.

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On June 5, President Biden revealed plans to impose significant restrictions on migrants seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border as the White House aims to mitigate immigration as a political issue before the November elections.

The much-anticipated presidential proclamation would deny asylum to migrants when U.S. officials determine that the southern border is overwhelmed.

The order will take effect when the number of border encounters between ports of entry reaches 2,500 per day, according to senior administration officials. This means Biden’s order should be implemented immediately, as current daily averages exceed this threshold. Average daily arrests for illegal crossings from Mexico last fell below 2,500 in January 2021, the month Biden took office. The last time encounters dipped to 1,500 a day was in July 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The restrictions will remain in place until the daily encounter numbers are at or below 1,500 per day for a seven-day average.

The department projects that arrests for illegal crossings may rise to a daily average of up to 6,700 from July through September.

Once this order is in effect, migrants who arrive at the border but do not express fear of returning to their home countries will be subject to immediate removal from the United States, within a matter of days or even hours. Those migrants could face punishments that could include a five-year bar from reentering the U.S. or even criminal prosecution.

Meanwhile, anyone who expresses that fear or an intention to seek asylum will be screened by a U.S. asylum officer but at a higher standard than currently used.

Read more: Immigration advocates slam new US rule targeting Caribbean asylum seekers

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