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#5153: 14 Haitians come ashore in Broward (fwd)
Posted at 4:28 p.m. EDT Friday, September 22, 2000
14 Haitians come ashore in Broward By JOHNNY DIAZ
Fourteen Haitians who bailed out of their 23-foot boat, jumped into the
water and scrambled to shore with leather luggage this morning in Dania
Beach may have been part of the latest smuggling operation, border
patrol officials said. The group -- seven women, four men, two teenage
girls and a three-month-old boy -- were being interviewed today by the
U.S. Border Patrol. Six of them, including a woman who is six months
pregnant, were taken to Memorial Regional Hospital in
Hollywood. All except the pregnant woman were released in good
condition. Agents were waiting until Saturday, when she is expected to
be released, to interview her.
Witnesses described the group as well-dressed, with leather purses and
briefcases in hand when they landed in the 100 block of North Beach
Road in Dania Beach just after 9:30 a.m. ``They flew out of the boat and
started running to shore,'' said Buddy Marder, a beachgoer who was
strolling along the shore when he saw the blue and white Wellcraft boat
approach. ``It was like an invasion.'' When the group hit land they
scattered. During the search, a Hollywood police officer stumbled upon
the body of an 80-something-year-old man nestled in a bush of seagrapes
near where the Haitians landed. Police believe the man from Hallandale
died from natural causes. They were looking for his family Friday.
Detectives don't believe his case is related to the landing of the
immigrants. Broward Sheriff's Office aviation crews and mounted patrol
units along with Hollywood police and border patrol agents rounded up
the group near the Dania Bar and Grill. A few feet away under a tiki
hut, the group of illegal immigrants were fed sandwiches and water while
patrol agents awaited Creole-interpreters.
During interviews back at the border patrol's headquarters in Pembroke
Pines, the group gave conflicting stories. Some claimed they traveled in
the boat from Haiti. But agents doubt their story.The Wellcraft boat is
registered in Florida. Agents would not say to whom or from
what city. Also, no map was found on board the vessel. ``They were
clean shaven. They looked like they had taken baths within a day.
They didn't look like they were at sea for days,'' said Dean Sinclair,
patrol agent at the border patrol. ``We are finding that lots of the
smugglers used to be narcotics smugglers are now smuggling humans.''
Border patrol officials say they haven't seen much of an increase in
the number of Haitians trying to slip into South Florida's shores. From
fiscal year 1999, 405 Haitians landed in South Florida. So far, 475 have
made it to shore this year, according to the border patrol.
``It's been nonstop,'' Sinclair added. Border patrol officials believe
the illegal immigrants often land in Northeast Broward and Palm Beach
counties because they often launch from or are smuggled through the
Bahamas -- which lies to the west and parallel to the two
counties. Today's group will be taken to the Krome Detention Center in
Miami-Dade County, where they will go to a hearing before an immigration
judge. Unless a judge upholds their claim for political asylum, they
will be deported back to their homeland.
Herald staff writer Wanda DeMarzo contributed to this report.