Residents react to base camp set up in Florida Keys

FLORIDA KEYS (NewsNation) — A tent city, as Upper Florida Keys locals call it, has arrived along U.S. 1. While everyone knows it’s there, most people didn’t know exactly what it was.

A quiet street to the beach is now a base camp housing the National Guard and Florida Highway Patrol (FHP). Amid all the change is confusion for residents who live right next door like Bill Sidebottom.

“It used to be quiet, used to be able to stand out in the middle of the road for hours and there’d be no traffic,” Sidebottom said. “I thought it was a detention camp and I they were going to start bringing refugees.”

The popup facility is a “base camp,” and “is NOT a migrant holding area,” according to a statement released by the Islamorada village government. The makeshift complex was built to house the influx of state law enforcement officers who were sent to the Florida Keys last month as part of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order to deal with the increase of migrant landings in the Keys.

“It’s got to be helpful because they’ve got people coming ashore quite a bit,” said Gary, a Florida Keys resident.

Year-round, the Florida Keys are a huge tourist attraction. There are hundreds of beach rentals, but these beautiful properties are now backed up against the base camp.

“Oh, it’s crazy; it’s just a lot of commotion,” said Alaina Betz, who’s vacationing in the Keys from Michigan. “When you come outside you just wish it wasn’t here.”

The base camp is for storage of vehicles and housing and laundry facility for the National Guard and The FHP officers sent under DeSantis’ executive order following an increase in Cuban migrants arriving on the remote islands located about 70 miles west of Key West.

“Seemed kind of weird that they’d have it down here, but I guess there are so many coming in that they need that,” Sidebottom said.

It is unclear how long the base camp will be housing the officers and additional personnel.


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