SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The Coast Guard repatriated 37 of 43 Dominican migrants to the Dominican Republic Wednesday morning following three at-sea interdictions by Caribbean Border Interagency Group law enforcement authorities Monday in the Mona Passage.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico will be filing a criminal complaint against six of the Dominican Republic nationals interdicted, five of which are facing potential criminal prosecution for attempted illegal re-entry into the United States and one for attempted smuggling.
“These cases are great examples of the interagency collaboration and coordination by our interagency partners in Puerto Rico and with our partners in the Dominican Republic,” said Cmdr. Heather Kelly, Coast Guard Sector San Juan chief of response. “Our collective efforts are key to interdicting these illegal migrant vessels and deterring those who take to the sea on these dangerous voyages.”
The first migrant vessel was detected Monday morning by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection maritime patrol aircraft, approximately 25 nautical miles northwest of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. The Coast Guard Cutter Charles David Jr. arrived on scene and launched the cutter’s Over the Horizon IV boat that interdicted the vessel and embarked the three men who were onboard.
Shortly thereafter, a second migrant vessel was detected Monday morning by the crew of a patrolling Coast Guard helicopter who sighted a red flare that had been launched from the 22-foot center console boat that was disabled and adrift, approximately eight nautical miles northeast of Mona Island, Puerto Rico.
The Charles David Jr. was diverted to the disabled vessel’s position. Upon arriving on scene, the crew of the Charles David Jr. embarked three men from the vessel.
The third migrant vessel was a grossly overloaded 25-foot makeshift boat that was detected Monday afternoon by the crew of a Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action helicopter, approximately 20 nautical miles northwest of Aguadilla.
Coast Guard watchstanders in Sector San Juan diverted the Coast Guard Cutter Charles David Jr., while a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter, a Customs and Border Protection marine unit and two Puerto Rico Police marine units also responded to interdict the migrant vessel.
The Puerto Rico Police and Customs and Border Protection marine units arrived on scene with the migrant vessel that was taking on water and distributed lifejackets to the people on board. The migrants, 30 men and seven women, were temporarily transferred to the three marine units for safety of life at sea concerns as the Charles David Jr. arrived on scene and embarked all the migrants onboard.
The six men facing potential prosecution were transferred to Ramey Sector Border Patrol agents Tuesday in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, while the remaining migrants were transferred to the Coast Guard Cutter Richard Dixon and repatriated to La Romana, Dominican Republic, where they were transferred to Dominican Republic Navy authorities.
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 Charles David Jr. and the Richard Dixon are 154-foot fast response cutters homeported in Key West, Fla, and San Juan, Puerto Rico respectively.