SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The Coast Guard Cutter Richard Dixon returned 14 Dominicans to the Dominican Republic Friday, after a boat carrying 17 Dominicans and three Indians was interdicted in the Mona Passage Wednesday just off the coast of Aguada, Puerto Rico.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico is filing a criminal complaint against three Dominican men traveling with the group facing potential criminal prosecution for attempted illegal re-entry into the United States.
The illegal migrant voyage consisted of a 23-foot grossly overloaded makeshift boat disabled and adrift Wednesday night, approximately eight nautical miles northwest of Aguada, Puerto Rico.
Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector San Juan received a cellular phone call from the disabled vessel alerting them of the ongoing distress. The Richard Dixon was diverted and a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen was launched to search for the migrant vessel. The crew of the Coast Guard helicopter located the migrant boat and vectored in the Richard Dixon to the vessel’s position. A Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action marine unit also arrived on scene to assist.
The crew of the Richard Dixon supplied the migrants with life jackets before embarking the 16 males and four females, including one minor from the migrant vessel. Once aboard they Richard Dixon, the migrants were provided with food, water, and shelter and they underwent biometric processing to determine if any had a prior criminal or illegal immigration history in the United States or a U.S. Territory.
The Richard Dixon transferred the three Dominican men facing potential criminal prosecution as well as the three Indian men, who will undergo removal proceedings, to Ramey Sector Border Patrol Agents in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.
The Richard Dixon repatriated the remaining 14 Dominicans to the Dominican Republic during an at-sea transfer of the migrants to a Dominican Navy patrol vessel Friday just south of La Romana, Dominican Republic.
“The swift response from Coast Guard and Puerto Rico Police crews allowed for the prompt rescue of the migrants, whose lives were endangered by attempting the perilous journey across the Mona Passage aboard an unseaworthy and grossly overloaded vessel with no life saving equipment on board,” said Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Douglas, Sector San Juan chief of law enforcement.
The Coast Guard Cutter Richard Dixon is a 154-foot Fast Response Cutter homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico.