July 14 (UPI) -- Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told those considering fleeing Haiti and Cuba by sea amid political turmoil for the United States that they will be denied entry.
"The time is never right to attempt migration by sea. To those who risk their lives doing so, this risk is not worth taking," he said Tuesday during a press conference. "Allow me to be clear: If you take to the sea, you will not come to the United States."
He said the Biden administration stands with the people of Haiti in its search for justice following last week's assassination of President Jovenel Moise and it supports the people of Cuba who have taken to the streets in anti-government protests but that those who attempt to leave the unrest for the United States will be turned away despite putting their lives at risk to travel the dangerous straits of Florida and the Caribbean.
"People will die," he said.
The Cuban American said the Department of Homeland Security is watching both situations closely while the Coast Guard with state, local and federal partners monitors the sea for an increase in unsafe and irregular maritime migration.
He said the sea transit across the Caribbean has resulted in the deaths of 20 people in recent weeks, and the Coast Guard has sent two cutters to the coast of Haiti to join three others already in nearby waters.
"Our priority is to preserve and save lives," he said.
Mayorkas made the announcement as the two nations confront political unrest. In Haiti, authorities are hunting the remaining five suspects believed to be a part of nearly 30 commandos who participated in the assassination of Moise on July 7, leaving the country in a power vacuum.
In Cuba, the largest protests seen in decades erupted with thousands demanding economic reforms as the economy struggles during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The announcement also comes after Mayorkas in May designated Haiti for Temporary Protect Status for 18 months, barring the deportation of Haitians already in the United States.
On Tuesday, he said this designation "is not an immigration program."
President Joe Biden on Monday had urged Cuban leaders to listen to protests while his administration said it would aid Haiti in its investigation but would review its request for the Defense Department to send U.S. troops to the Hispaniola nation.
"Again, I repeat," Mayorkas said, "do not risk your life attempting to enter the United States illegally. You will not come to the United States."