Coast Guard Repatriates 83 Dominicans, Detains 10 for Prosecution

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Matinicus repatriated 83 Dominican migrants to La Romana, Dominican Republic Wednesday, following an at-sea interdiction by Department of Homeland Security law enforcement authorities Tuesday.

Coast Guard law enforcement personnel detained 10 Dominicans, of the 93 migrants aboard the interdicted yola, for attempting to enter illegally into the United States or a U.S. Territory on multiple occasions. The United States Attorney’s Office in Puerto Rico accepted to prosecute their cases.

The crew of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection fixed-wing aircraft located a migrant yola Monday evening while patrolling Mona Passage waters, approximately 38 nautical miles west northwest of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico.

Coast Guard Sector San Juan Controllers diverted Coast Guard Cutter Chincoteague to the scene. The Chincoteague interdicted the migrant vessel Tuesday morning, and the crew embarked 81 men and 12 women in eight to nine foot seas, while Air Station Borinquen HH-65 Dolphin helicopters and a U.S. Customs and Border Protection UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter flew rescue support overhead.

The migrants were traveling illegally to Puerto Rico aboard a 40-foot grossly overloaded wooden yola. The Chincoteague’s crew collected the migrant’s biometric information and destroyed the yola as a hazard to navigation.

The Matinicus rendezvoused with the Chincoteague Tuesday afternoon and embarked the migrants to complete their repatriation. The crew of the Matinicus transferred custody of the 83 migrants to Dominican Republic navy authorities Wednesday afternoon in La Romana, Dominican Republic.

“If not for the heroic efforts of the crewmen aboard Coast Guard Cutter Chincoteague and the aircrews from Air Station Borinquen and the Customs and Border Protection Caribbean Air Marine Branch, there is no doubt in my mind that 93 lives would have been lost or in jeopardy, said Capt. James E. Tunstall, commander, Sector San Juan. “These migrants, who were all attempting to enter the United States Illegally, should consider themselves exceptionally fortunate thanks to the heroic efforts of these people.”

“This interdiction is yet another example of the great results achieved through the implementation of the biometrics program by the United States Coast Guard”, said U. S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez. “The USAO will continue working with our law enforcement partners who put their lives in danger to protect our borders. We will continue to aggressively prosecute these cases.”

“Operations like this one shows the effectiveness of Homeland Security law enforcement personnel from the Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement working together towards a common goal; preventing the illegal entry into the United States through Puerto Rico shores,” said Juan Muñoz-Torres, a spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The biometric capability employed in this case provides the Coast Guard with an important tool to definitively establish the identity of those interdicted at sea who may attempt to enter or re-enter the United States illegally, or who may pose a threat to national security.

Collecting biometric identification supports the U.S. Government’s efforts to target human smugglers and protect migrants put at risk attempting to enter the United States illegally from the sea.

Coast Guard Cutter’s Chincoteague and Matinicus are 110-foot patrol boats home ported in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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