Coast Guard recognizes U.S. Attorney for contributions against Human Trafficking

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – The Coast Guard’s Seventh District Commander presented the Meritorious Public Service Award to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico during a ceremony Thursday morning at the Chardon Tower in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico.

Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, was recongnized for leading, from June 2006 to October 2009, an unprecedented interagency response to regional maritime threats from criminal human smuggling organizations. Rodríguez-Vélez was instrumental in the creation of the Caribbean Border Interagency Group (CBIG), through her leadership CBIG evolved into a highly effective forum for interagency collaboration in the fight against human smuggling and Homeland Security threats.

Rodríguez-Vélez created an Immigration Unit at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oct. 2006 to proactively prosecute criminal violations of U.S. immigration laws. The Immigration Unit, consists of personnel from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Field Operations and Office of Border Patrol, the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico. She amended the District of Puerto Rico prosecution guidelines to expand the scope of criminal immigration cases the U.S. Attorney’s office would accept for prosecution. This dramatically increased the number of prosecutions from 188 in 2005 to 417 in 2008, a 221% increase. During this same period, the total flow of illegal migrants into Puerto Rico via the Mona Passage has decreased from approximately 10,000 in 2005 to 1,850.

The Meritorious Public Service Award is one of the highest awards conferred by the Coast Guard for major contributions to its missions.

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