Coast Guard Repatriates 146 Dominicans to La Romana, Dominican Republic

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Key Largo repatriated 146 Dominican migrants to La Romana, Dominican Republic Friday morning, following an at-sea interdiction by Caribbean Border Interagency Group (CBIG) agencies Wednesday.

Coast Guard law enforcement personnel detained 11 Dominicans of the 157 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 boat Wednesday afternoon while patrolling waters, approximately 20 nautical miles north of Isabela, Puerto Rico. The migrants, 120 men and 37 women, were traveling illegally to Puerto Rico aboard a 50-foot grossly overloaded wooden yola.

Coast Guard Sector San Juan Controllers diverted Coast Guard Cutter’s Key Largo and Matinicus, while U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Puerto Rico Police marine units also responded to the scene. The crew of the Key Largo interdicted the migrant yola and safely embarked 97 migrants, while the crew of the Matinicus safely embarked the remaining 60 migrants from the yola. The crew’s of the Key Largo and Matinicus collected the migrant’s biometric information and destroyed the migrant vessel as a hazard to navigation.

During the interdiction, Air Station Borinquen HH-65 Dolphin and a U.S. Customs and Border Protection UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters flew rescue support overhead.

The crews of cutters Key Largo and Matinicus rendezvoused with U.S. Border Patrol and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents Thursday at the Puerto Rico Police Marine Station in Añasco, Puerto Rico, and brought them on board to conduct interviews and background checks on the migrants’ biographic information.

The crew of the Matinicus turned custody of the 11 detained Dominican migrants over to U.S. Border Patrol agents Thursday, while the Key Largo repatriated the remaining 146 migrants and transferred their custody to Dominican Republic naval authorities in La Romana Dominican Republic Friday morning.

“This was a very dangerous case with the potential of turning into a mass casualty search and rescue operation,” said Capt. Eduardo Pino, Commander, Sector San Juan. “Thanks to the professionalism of our CBIG partners we were able to safely interdict this vessel and bring 11 migrant repeat offenders to justice for attempting to re-enter illegally into Puerto Rico.”

“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.”

In the last 15 days CBIG agencies have interdicted a total of 317 migrants in the Mona Passage and have brought 43 others ashore for prosecution.

The concept of CBIG resulted from a March 2006 collaboration of local Homeland Security components that effectively stemmed the increased flow of traffic across the Mona Passage between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. In July 2006, CBIG was formally created to unify efforts of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Air & Marine (A&M), Office of Field Operations (OFO), and Office of Border Patrol (OBP), the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) the United States Attorney ‘ s Office, District of Puerto Rico, and Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid action (FURA) in their common goal of securing Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands against illegal maritime traffic and gaining control of our nation’s Caribbean borders.

The Coast Guard/US-VISIT 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 Key Largo and Matinicus are 110-foot patrol boats home ported in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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