Coast Guard repatriates 23 Dominican migrants, returns 1 Haitian to the Dominican Republic

Coast Guard Cutter Richard Dixon file photo

Coast Guard Cutter Richard Dixon file photo

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The Coast Guard Cutter Richard Dixon (WPC-1113) repatriated 24 of 30 migrant adults to a Dominican Republic Navy vessel Wednesday in waters just off Samana, Dominican Republic.

The repatriation followed Monday’s interdiction of a migrant boat by Caribbean Border Interagency Group law enforcement authorities just off Ruins Beach in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico.

Three migrants from the group are facing possible federal prosecution, by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico, for illegally attempting to reenter the United States. Three other migrants in this case remain in Border Patrol custody pending further investigation and expedited removal to the Dominican Republic.

“The swift response and professionalism of our Coast Guard and partner agency responding units resulted in the safe recovery and rescue of all the migrants in this case,” said Cmdr. Christopher Douglas, Coast Guard Sector San Juan chief of response. “Don’t take to the sea as part of illegal migrant voyage, you risk losing your life or the life of a loved one. These makeshift vessels are too often unseaworthy, grossly overloaded with little or no lifesaving equipment.”

Coast Guard watchstanders in Sector San Juan received a call Monday morning from a Ramey Sector Border Patrol Agent in Aguadilla, who reported a migrant boat, half a mile offshore, attempting to make landfall on Ruins Beach. Watchstanders diverted the Coast Guard Cutter Richard Dixon and launched an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen to provide rescue support at the scene. A Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action marine unit, and a Customs and Border Protection CBP marine interceptor also responded.

As law enforcement units closed-in on the migrant vessel, most of the migrants jumped overboard and started swimming towards the shore. The crew of the Richard Dixon cutter boat rescued one of the migrants, while the crew of the CBP marine unit rescued the remaining migrants from the water. Border Patrol agents ashore apprehended two other migrants on the beach. The crew of the Richard Dixon embarked the migrants from the makeshift boat as well as all the rescued migrants.

Following the interdiction, the crew of the Richard Dixon transferred four of the migrants to Border Patrol agents in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, before returning the remaining 23 Dominicans and one Haitian to the Dominican Republic.

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.

Since October 2018, Coast Guard, federal and Puerto Rico law enforcement partners have interdicted at least 1,231 migrants and stopped several narcotics smuggling attempts throughout the Sector San Juan area of responsibility.

The Richard Dixon is a 154-foot fast response cutter homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico

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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