SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The Coast Guard Cutter Richard Dixon repatriated 11of 26 Dominican migrants to the Dominican Republic Wednesday, interdicted at sea in two separate events Monday.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico will file criminal complaints Thursday in the U.S. District Court of Puerto Rico to prosecute five Dominican men travelling with one of the groups on charges of attempted illegal re-entry into the United States.
“I’m proud of the crew’s performance while responding to two migrant cases during our first operational patrol,” said Lt. Dave Gilbert, Commanding officer of the Richard Dixon. “The work accomplished alongside the Dominican Republic Navy and the Coast Guard Cutter Vigorous helped save 26 lives and bring five smugglers to justice.”
Both illegal migrant voyages were located by the crew of a Coast Guard HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft on a routine patrol of the area early Monday morning.
The first event involved a 20-foot migrant boat that was spotted by the Coast Guard aircraft transiting approximately 18 nautical miles southeast of Isla Saona, Dominican Republic. Coast Guard Cutter watchstanders at Sector San Juan diverted the Richard Dixon to carry out the interdiction and alerted Dominican authorities of the developing situation. The Richard Dixon arrived on seen and interdicted the migrant boat that was carrying nine men and a woman. Shortly thereafter, a Dominican Republic Navy vessel arrived on scene, confirmed the nationality and embarked the migrants for their return to the Dominican Republic.
The second migrant boat was initially detected by the Coast Guard aircrew, approximately 12 nautical miles north of La Vacama, Dominican Republic, heading towards Puerto Rico. The Coast Guard Cutter Vigorous, with their cutter boat deployed, arrived on scene with the migrant vessel that was taking on water and sinking as the migrants attempted to keep the water out.
The Vigorous cutter boat supplied the migrants with life jackets as the Richard Dixon arrived on scene to assist. The crew of the Richard Dixon embarked the migrants, 15 men and a woman, and provided them with food, water, and shelter. They also conducted biometric processing on the migrants to determine if any had a previous criminal or illegal immigration history in the United States or a U.S. Territory.
U.S. Border Patrol agents, transported to the Richard Dixon by a Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action marine unit, conducted migrant interviews and subsequently placed five of the Dominicans into custody to face judicial proceedings ashore.
The Richard Dixon rendezvoused with a Dominican Navy patrol vessel Wednesday just off La Romana, Dominican Republic, where they transferred custody of the remaining 11 Dominicans.
“This was a great case for an eager crew,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Kenneth Christian, Cutter Vigorous boarding officer. “The vessel was not seaworthy nor was there any means of sustaining an at-sea incident; no life jackets, no fire extinguishers, no signaling devices, communications equipment or dewatering equipment. With increasing seas, the coordination of all of our Coast Guard assets ensured the migrants made it safely to shore.”
The Coast Guard Cutter Richard Dixon is a 154-foot fast response cutter, homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The Coast Guard Cutter Vigorous is a 210-foot Medium Endurance Cutter homeported in Virginia Beach, Va.