Coast Guard interdicts 29 migrants, 1 suspected smuggler off Puerto Rico

Coast Guard Cutter Winslow Griesser file photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Melissa Leake

Coast Guard Cutter Winslow Griesser file photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Melissa Leake

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The Coast Guard interdicted 29 migrants, and one suspected smuggler Tuesday following two separate at-sea interdictions.

Two of the interdicted migrants are facing potential federal criminal immigration charges in Puerto Rico for attempted illegal re-entry into the United States, one will be further investigated as a possible smuggler and the other 27 migrants were repatriated to the Dominican Republic, Wednesday.

The interdiction resulted from ongoing efforts in support of Operation Unified Resolve, Operation Caribbean Guard and the Caribbean Border Interagency Group (CBIG).

“An outstanding coordination between the Coast Guard, CBP, FURA and our other partner agencies was a critical component for our joint crews to safely complete both these interdictions,” said Cmdr. Luis Rodriguez, Coast Guard 7th District deputy chief of enforcement. “These partnerships are not only vital to our maritime border security, but are instrumental in stopping these perilous voyages before they end in tragedy.”

On Tuesday, a Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Branch aircrew located a migrant vessel approximately 18 miles northeast of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. The Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Tezanos (WPC-1118) interdicted the vessel with 10 migrants.

A Puerto Rico Joint Forces of Rapid Action Cobra unit interdicted 19 migrants, and one suspected smuggler Tuesday, 4 miles west of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. The Coast Guard Cutter Winslow Griesser (WPC-1116) embarked the 20 migrants.

Once aboard a Coast Guard cutter, all migrants receive food, water, shelter and basic medical attention.

The cutters Joseph Tezanos and Winslow Griesser are 154-foot fast response cutters homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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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