Behind the scenes with border patrol in the Florida Keys

(NewsNation) — As authorities on the ground try to manage an influx of migrants arriving on Florida’s beaches, a separate enforcement team is trying to stop migrant vessels before they hit the shore.

NewsNation joined U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Air and Marine Operations (AMO) team for a day to see how agents are managing the situation in the Florida Keys.

Like border agents on land, AMO agents are constantly surveying suspicious activity from the air and on the water.

In tandem with the U.S. Coast Guard, the AMO team tries to stop migrants who are trying to reach the United States by sea.

Most of those migrants are coming from Cuba and Haiti, and at least 65 have died at sea since August. In total, more than 4,400 migrants have arrived by boat in Florida over the past five months.

Earlier this month, the Coast Guard repatriated to Cuba 68 people who were attempting to enter the country illegally.

NewsNation visited the Marquesas Keys, a popular migrant landing spot, which is about 20 miles west of Key West and only 80 miles from Havana, Cuba. The shore was covered with abandoned boats.

AMO agents say finding migrant boats at sea can be challenging.

“On an average day, you’re probably going to be within a mile to spot them,” said AMO Agent Brett Godfrey. “Once it’s rough out, they blend in with the waves and you’re not going to pick them up on the radar.”

The state of Florida has sent extra resources to the Florida Keys, including additional troopers from the Florida Highway Patrol and even the state’s National Guard.

Some AMO agents NewsNation spoke to, such as Kerry Martinick, have been temporarily relocated so they can be close to the action.

Martinick said agents often finds migrants enduring terrible conditions.

“We’ve seen vessels halfway flooded, just a mixture of diesel fuel and human waste,” he said.

Earlier this month, the Biden administration said it would immediately begin turning away Cubans, Haitians and Nicaraguans who cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.

It remains to be seen what impact that will have on migrants who arrive in Florida.