Coast Guard interdicts 24 migrants off Mona Island, Puerto Rico

Coast Guard Cutter Tahoma file photo

Coast Guard Cutter Tahoma file photo

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico —The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Tahoma repatriated 20 of 24 Dominican migrants to a Dominican Republic Navy vessel Monday just off Samana, Dominican Republic, following the interdiction of a makeshift boat Saturday, approximately five nautical miles west of Mona Island, Puerto Rico.

Four men among the interdicted migrants are facing federal prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico for illegally attempting to reenter the United States.

Since October 2018, Coast Guard, federal and Puerto Rico law enforcement partners have interdicted at least 969 migrants and stopped several narcotics smuggling attempts throughout the Sector San Juan area of responsibility.


“Despite challenging conditions, the Coast Guard crews involved in this event utilized their training and expertise to successfully rescue all 24 people from the unseaworthy vessel,” said Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Haddad, Coast Guard Sector San Juan chief of enforcement. “These illegal maritime migration voyages are extremely dangerous and put the safety of those onboard in great jeopardy. The Coast Guard, in conjunction with our partners, remain poised to intercept these smuggling events in an effort to prevent the unnecessary loss of life.”

The crew of an HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft from Coast Guard Air Station Miami, while on a routine patrol of the Mona Passage, detected a 22-foot makeshift wooden boat late Friday night with an undetermined number of passengers aboard transiting towards Puerto Rico. The migrants were continuously bailing out water to prevent their vessel from sinking.

The Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Tezanos diverted and interdicted the migrant vessel Saturday morning, when the crew embarked all 24 migrants, 20 men and four women, and destroyed the migrant boat as a hazard to navigation. Afterwards, the migrants were embarked aboard Coast Guard Cutter Richard Dixon and then to the Coast Guard Tahoma for their repatriation. The crew of the Tahoma completed the transfer of the four detained migrants Sunday to Border Patrol agents in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.

Following at-sea interdictions, illegal migrants stopped are repatriated to their country of origin or returned to their place of departure. In some cases, those migrants found to have a criminal history with possible connection to smuggling operations are turned over to law enforcement authorities for further prosecution by the Department of Justice. Once aboard a Coast Guard cutter, all migrants receive food, water, shelter and basic medical attention.

The Joseph Tezanos and Richard Dixon are 154-foot fast response cutters homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico, while the Tahoma is a 270-foot medium endurance cutter based out of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, ME. The new Offshore Patrol Cutter will eventually replace Tahoma and other ships in its class, which will be able to carry out Coast Guard missions with greater endurance and interoperability with military and federal partners.

The Coast Guard’s efforts under Operation Unified Resolve contribute to the interagency results being achieved each and every day locally under Operation Caribbean Guard, which coordinates efforts between the Coast Guard, its DHS, Commonwealth and Territorial law enforcement partners, who are working diligently to deter, detect and disrupt illicit maritime trafficking to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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.


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