SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The Coast Guard repatriated 21 Dominicans and returned seven Haitian migrants to the Dominican Republic following two at-sea interdictions by Caribbean Border Interagency Group law enforcement authorities in the Mona Passage Sunday night.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico will be filing a criminal complaint against six of the migrants interdicted, five are facing potential criminal prosecution for attempted illegal re-entry into the United States and one other for alien smuggling.
While on a routine patrol of the Mona Passage Sunday night, the crew of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine maritime patrol aircraft initially detected a 21-foot wooden boat with nine Dominican migrants onboard, seven men and two women, approximately 15 nautical miles north of Quebradillas, Puerto Rico. Shortly thereafter, the CBP aircrew detected a 25-foot fiberglass boat with 19 Dominicans, 17 men and two women, and seven Haitian men, approximately 18 nautical miles northwest of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico.
Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector San Juan diverted the Coast Guard Cutter Kathleen Moore, while a CBP Air and Marine midnight interceptor boat also responded to interdict the migrant vessels. The CBP marine unit arrived on scene and stopped the vessel with nine migrants, while the Kathleen Moore interdicted the second vessel with 26 migrants onboard.
The Kathleen Moore embarked the migrants from both interdictions and conducted biometric processing to determine if any had a previous criminal or illegal immigration history in the United States.
The Kathleen Moore transferred custody of the six migrants facing prosecution to Ramey Sector Border Patrol Agents in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico Tuesday. The remaining migrants were transported by the Coast Guard Cutter Reef Shark to Dominican Republic waters, where they were transferred to a Dominican Republic Navy patrol boat Tuesday afternoon for further transport to La Romana, Dominican Republic.
“The efficient coordination and response between Caribbean Border Interagency Group partner agencies prevented two illegal migrant voyages from reaching shore and ensured the safety of the 35 people, who endangered their lives by attempting the perilous voyage across the Mona Passage aboard unseaworthy and grossly overloaded vessels with no life saving equipment onboard,” said Lt. Cmdr. LuAnn Kehlenbach, Acting Sector San Juan chief of response.
The Caribbean Border Interagency Group was formally created to unify efforts of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the United States Attorney‘s Office for the District of Puerto Rico, and Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action (FURA, for its Spanish acronym), in their common goal of securing the borders of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands against illegal migrant and drug smuggling.
The Kathleen Moore is a 154-foot Fast Response Cutter homeported in Key West, Fla, while the Coast Guard Cutter Reef Shark is an 87-foot Coastal Patrol Boat homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico.