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I spent a day with the US Coast Guard in the Port of Miami, where units search for drug smugglers and unauthorized migrants

I spent a day with the US Coast Guard in the Port of Miami, where units search for drug smugglers and unauthorized migrants
  • In January, a Miami-based Coast Guard vessel was involved in the seizure of a boat carrying 132 pounds of cocaine. Earlier that month, a Miami-based Coast Guard airplane spotted a vessel carrying 35 migrants off the coast of Puerto Rico.
  • After spending time at Coast Guard boot camp, Senior Video Correspondent Graham Flanagan traveled to Miami to see how the Coast Guard combats drug smuggling and illegal immigration from the air and the sea.
  • Flanagan spent a day aboard the Coast Guard cutter Robert Yered, which patrols the Port of Miami and the surrounding region that includes the Florida Keys and the Bahamas.
  • Flanagan experienced a ride-along on a high-speed, water-jet powered pursuit boat used to quickly engage vessels for boardings and routine inspections.
Following is a transcript of the video.

Graham Flanagan: At the end of last year, I spent some time at the Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May, New Jersey, which is boot camp for the Coast Guard.

Petty Officer Arianne Gunn: Get upright!

Recruit: Aye, aye, Petty Officer Gunn!

Gunn: Fly away from me.

Recruit: Aye, aye, Petty Officer Gunn!

Flanagan: And I wanted to see what these recruits do after they leave Cape May. I wanted to see what they do after they graduate. After seeing a lot of headlines, I saw that the Coast Guard in Miami was very active in terms of drug interdiction and also dealing with illegal immigration. In 2019, the Coast Guard in Miami has been involved in a major seizure of cocaine. Also you've had migrants intercepted in the region of Miami.

President Trump: We have to build the wall, it will get built. We're going to complete it.

Flanagan: Right now the eyes of the world are focused on the US-Mexico border.

President Trump: The drugs and the human trafficking and all of the things that pour into our country, it's so terrible.

Flanagan: While the US-Mexico border definitely deserves attention and resources, these other ports around the country, there is a massive amount of activity that's being monitored by military and law enforcement resources. I wanted to go see what the Coast Guard in Miami does on a daily basis to stop the flow of illegal immigration and drug trafficking. The Coast Guard in Miami combats drugs and illegal immigration from the air and from the sea. On day one, I was at the air station in Miami where a fleet of airplanes and helicopters are always standing by to perform search and rescue, which is a major function of the Coast Guard in Miami.

Lt. Michael Gonzales: Our primary mission that we have here is search and rescue or SAR. We also perform our secondary mission of law enforcement. Typically this is gonna be us going out there to be the eyes in the sky for our surface assets.

Flanagan: My day at the air station, unfortunately, was pretty boring because the weather was terrible. There were no search and rescue calls, thankfully, which means that people were smart enough to stay off the water on a day when the weather was so bad. The next day, it was sunny. I got the all clear to join the Coast Guard on the cutter known as the Robert Yered that patrols the port of Miami.

Lt. Joshua Tucker: We're heading outbound from Base Miami Beach. So we're just gonna head offshore here to begin our normal patrolling operations, looking for vessels of interest and really anything that's standing out of the ordinary.

Flanagan: We set out into the port of Miami, and we got out about 5 miles offshore, and the seas were pretty rough. It looked like a nice day, but it was very bumpy. On the stern of the cutter, there is this fast-response boat that they can deploy when they need to quickly engage a potentially suspicious vessel or to conduct routine boardings of vessels for inspection. Before I boarded the small boat, they outfitted me head to toe with rain gear, so I was essentially waterproof.

I was on the boat with four other Coast Guardsmen. Once we're all in the boat, we simply slide off the back, and we are out in the open ocean. I mean, it's a small boat, and you're out there, and you really feel it. It was bumpy. It was wet. All I brought was this little GoPro camera. Constantly getting splashed and sprayed as we cruised around the port.

We came upon a fishing boat. It looked like a pretty normal fishing trip, five or six people on board. Our boat pulled alongside theirs, and the Coast Guard said that they were going to perform a routine inspection. Two Coast Guardsmen boarded that boat and then we essentially kind of pulled away. We sort of just trolled around staying within proximity of the boat. I wasn't too concerned that anything was suspicious or out of the ordinary while this was happening. It seemed pretty routine.

You know, I kind of felt bad for the people on the boat because this kind of interrupted their fishing trip. And I asked them, "Why would you stop a boat that looks like it's just a bunch of guys having a fishing trip?" And they said that oftentimes drug smugglers, people trying to smuggle migrants into the country, they will use boats that look like this to make the Coast Guard, to make law enforcement think that it's just a regular fishing boat.

This is the boat that the Coast Guard caught trying to smuggle in cocaine last month. I mean, it looks like a regular fishing boat, it looks like the boat that they boarded while I was embedded with them. They have to assume with these routine inspections that there's always a chance that you could find something illegal, something that needs to be stopped from entering into the United States.

Then we finally, about 20 minutes later, got the signal that the inspection was done, and so everything was fine. There were no drugs, no migrants on board or anything like that. Everything checked out. At first, you know, I felt bad that these fishermen were interrupted, but the Coast Guard was just doing their job.

My biggest takeaway from my time with the Coast Guard in the port of Miami is that these men and women that work at the air station or on these cutters, every single day, they enter the port of Miami not knowing what to expect. I didn't know what we would find. There was a chance that we could run into a hostile situation. Nothing about my day with the Coast Guard was dangerous, but it just made you appreciate the fact that every day these men and women put themselves in unpredictable situations all in the name of trying to keep us safe.


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