Coast Guard repatriates 12 migrants to the Dominican Republic

Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernandez File Photo

Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernandez File Photo

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The Coast Guard repatriated 12 Dominican migrants to a Dominican Navy patrol vessel Sunday morning, following the at-sea interdiction of an illegal migrant voyage Thursday in the Mona Passage.

Two other Dominican migrants traveling in the group remain in federal custody facing possible prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico on potential charges of attempted illegal reentry into a U.S. territory.

The interdictions are the result of ongoing efforts in support of Operation Unified Resolve, Operation Caribbean Guard and the Caribbean Border Interagency Group (CBIG).

“Migrants endanger their lives when taking part in an illegal voyage aboard makeshift and grossly overloaded boats with little or no lifesaving equipment,” said Lt. Cmdr. Rafael Batlle, Commanding Officer of the Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernandez. “I’m proud of my crew and thankful that we were able to arrive in time and rescue all these persons from a very dangerous situation. Most of them were dehydrated, disoriented, weakened and even sea sick.”

While on a routine patrol Thursday night, the crew of a Coast Guard HC-144 maritime patrol aircraft detected a migrant vessel that was transiting without navigational lights. The migrant boat was located approximately 10 nautical miles north Mona Island, Puerto Rico

Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector San Juan diverted cutter Heriberto Hernandez to interdict the suspect vessel. Shortly thereafter, the Heriberto Hernandez crew interdicted the 30-foot makeshift boat and embarked all 14 men from their vessel that was taking on water and in danger of sinking.

The cutter Heriberto Hernandez transferred custody of the two migrants facing federal prosecution to Ramey Sector Border Patrol agents in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. The remaining migrants were transferred to the Coast Guard Cutter Winslow Griesser (WPC- 1116), which transported the migrants to Dominican waters just off Samaná, Dominican Republic for their repatriation.

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

Cutters Heriberto Hernandez 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 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 unifies efforts between 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. These agencies share a common goal of securing the maritime border of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands against illegal migrant and drug smuggling threats.

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