SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The Coast Guard transferred nine Dominican and nine Cuban migrants to the Dominican Republic Navy Tuesday, in waters approximately three nautical miles south of La Romana, Dominican Republic.
The migrants were part of a group of 14 Dominicans and nine Cubans, who were interdicted Sunday by the Coast Guard Guard Cutter Vigorous aboard a makeshift boat that was transiting illegally to Puerto Rico, approximately 60 nautical miles north of Mona Island, Puerto Rico.
Five of the Dominicans in the group were brought to Puerto Rico to face potential criminal prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico. Three of the migrants are facing charges of attempted illegal re-entry into the United States, while two others for alien smuggling and failure to follow federal law enforcement officers order to heave to.
“These migrants were transiting aboard a grossly overloaded and unseaworthy vessel with no life saving equipment onboard, they are very fortunate to not have capsized,” said Christopher Douglas, Sector San Juan chief of law enforcement. “The close coordination between all responders and the Dominican Republic Navy allowed for safe and expedited return of the migrants.”
The migrants vessel was located by the crew of the Vigorous during a routine patrol of the Mona Passage. Coast Guard watchstanders diverted the Coast Guard Cutter Richard Dixon to assist and notified Dominican Republic Navy authorities who responded with a patrol boat and two response vessels
Upon receiving orders from the Vigorous to stop, the migrant vessel refused to comply and attempted to flee the area. Moments thereafter the migrant vessel became disabled and the engine was intentionally dropped into the water during an attempt to replace it with another. The migrant vessel lost all means of propulsion when the second engine was inadvertently dropped into the water as it was being installed.
The migrants were supplied with lifejackets and embarked aboard the Richard Dixon for safety of life at sea. Afterwards, the migrants were all transferred to the Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernandez.
The Heriberto Hernandez transited to Mayaguez, Puerto Rico Monday night, where they transferred the five migrants to Ramey Sector Border Patrol Agents in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. The remaining migrants were transported by the Heriberto Hernandez to Dominican Republic waters,where they were transferred to the Dominican Republic Navy.
The Coast Guard Cutter Vigorous is a 210-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Virgina Beach, Va.
The Coast Guard Cutters Richard Dixon and Heriberto Hernandez are 154-foot Fast Response Cutters homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico.