SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The Coast Guard repatriated 28 Dominican and returned five Haitian migrants to the Dominican Republic following two at-sea interdictions in the Mona Passage Sunday and Friday.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico will be filing a criminal complaint to prosecute five other Dominican men from Sunday’s interdiction on charges of attempted illegal re-entry into the United States.
The crew of a Coast Guard HC-144 Ocean Sentry maritime patrol aircraft on a routine patrol of the Mona Passage Sunday detected a 20-foot wooden boat with possible migrants onboard, approximately 50 nautical miles northwest of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico.
Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector San Juan diverted the Coast Guard Cutter William Flores that arrived on scene and interdicted the makeshift vessel carrying 16 men and two women onboard. The crew of the William Flores embarked the migrants and conducted their biometric processing to determine if any had a previous criminal or illegal immigration history in the United States.
The William Flores transferred custody of the five Dominican men to be charged and prosecuted in federal court to awaiting Border Patrol Agents in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico Sunday night. The remaining 13 Dominican migrants were transferred by the crew of the William Flores to a Dominican Republic Navy patrol boat Monday for their return to the Dominican Republic.
The crew of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine maritime patrol aircraft detected a 30-foot wooden boat with possible migrants onboard, approximately 26 nautical miles northeast of La Vacama, Dominican Republic Friday.
Coast Guard watchstanders at Sector San Juan diverted the Coast Guard Cutter Richard Dixon and alerted Dominican Republic Navy authorities of the developing situation. The Richard Dixon interdicted the migrant vessel with 15 Dominicans and five Haitians onboard. Shortly thereafter, a Dominican Republic Navy patrol boat arrived on scene and embarked the migrants for their return to the Dominican Republic.
“The swift response, close coordination and collaboration between the Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection and Dominican Republic Navy crews helped save 20 lives,” said Cmdr. Heather Kelly, Sector San Juan chief of response. “These migrants are very fortunate to have survived the perilous Mona Passage aboard a grossly overloaded makeshift vessel with no life saving equipment onboard.”
The William Flores and Richard Dixon are 154-foot Fast Response Cutters homeported in Miami and San Juan, Puerto Rico respectively.