Coast Guard Repatriates 18, Detains 5

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Sapelo repatriated 18 Dominican migrants yesterday to La Romana, Dominican Republic, following an at-sea interdiction Thursday.

Five male migrants were identified through the use of biometrics (digital fingerprints and photographs) as having a history of illegal immigration or criminal activity in the United States or a U.S. territory. Coast Guard law enforcement personnel detained three of the migrants who were attempting to illegally re-enter U.S. territory for at least a third time. Two other migrants, considered to be aggravated felons for having been previously convicted in the U.S. on drug related charges, were also detained for attempting to enter illegally into U.S. territory.

The crew of cutter Sapelo transferred custody of the five detained migrants to U.S. Border Patrol agents in Mayaguez yesterday, for further processing in anticipation of filing of charges by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Puerto Rico.

The crew of a Coast Guard HU-25 Falcon Jet from Air Station Cape Cod, Mass. located the migrant yola Thursday afternoon during a law enforcement patrol, approximately 18 nautical miles west of Mona Island, Puerto Rico.

Coast Guard controllers diverted Coast Guard Cutter Sapelo to interdict the migrants who were traveling illegally to Puerto Rico aboard the grossly overloaded 25-foot wooden yola. The crew of the Sapelo arrived on scene and interdicted the migrants, approximately 11.5 nautical miles west of Mona Island. The crew safely embarked the migrants while a HH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Air Station Borinquen, Aguadilla, flew rescue support overhead. The crew of the Sapelo destroyed the migrant yola as a hazard to navigation.

The crew of the Sapelo transferred custody of the five detained migrants yesterday to Border Patrol Agents in Mayaguez, and then proceeded to go underway to La Romana to repatriate the 18 migrants; 11 male and seven females, including one 16-year-old female, whom remained onboard. The repatriation was completed at approximately 10 p.m. yesterday when custody of the migrants was transferred to Dominican Republic navy authorities in La Romana.

Since its inception in Nov. 2006, U.S. Coast Guard/US-VISIT Biometrics Proof of Concept, biometric data has been collected on 1,016 migrants during 39 at-sea interdictions in the Mona Passage. Thus far, 63 migrants have been brought ashore for filing of charges and prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Puerto Rico.

The 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 Sapelo is a 110-foot patrol boat homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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