The U.S. Coast Guard confirmed Thursday that Congressman Ted Yoho (R-3rd District) in August alerted its Sector Key West units to a boat of 20 Cuban migrants, who were then sent back to Cuba.
Yoho boasted about the incident during an Aug. 25 town hall in Melrose. A group called Right Wing Watch on Tuesday posted video of him speaking.
The congressman was fishing about four nautical miles south of Key Colony Beach in Marathon on the afternoon of Aug. 14. He said he and his son spotted the migrants’ boat and alerted the Coast Guard, who responded and “gained compliance” within about 30 minutes of arriving on scene, Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Kelly said. There were 14 men and six women.
“One of the initial reports was that one of them might have been pregnant,” Kelly said. “That was not the case.”
The Coast Guard repatriated all 20 back to Cuba via Guantanamo Bay.
Yoho, in the video, said he worked to slow the boat.
“I said ‘No, they’re not coming into shore,'” he told the town hall attendees.
Kelly said the Coast Guard boat wasn’t yet on scene at that point and can’t confirm what Yoho may have done beyond calling for help. Yoho said he has video of the interaction, which WUFT News requested of his office on Thursday.
How common is this type of citizen assistance? The Coast Guard often receives tips about vessels in trouble or migrants who need to be intercepted before reaching shore.
“As to how often that happens,” Kelly said, “I couldn’t give you an exact percentage.”
Yoho is seeking reelection in November against Democrat Ken McGurn and Tom Wells, who has no party affiliation.