Coast Guard repatriates 35 migrants to the Dominican Republic

The Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Tezanos

Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Tezanos file photo

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The Coast Guard repatriated 35 migrants to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic Friday, following the interdiction of an illegal migrant voyage Thursday by Caribbean Border Interagency Group (CBIG) law enforcement crews in the Mona Passage.

The interdiction is the result of ongoing efforts in support of Operation Caribbean Guard and the CBIG.

“In these times of uncertainty due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, our forces in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are fully dedicated to preserving the safety of life at sea and to protecting the security and safety of our fellow citizens in our nation’s southernmost maritime border,” said Capt. Eric King, Coast Guard Sector San Juan commander. “Our Coast Guard men and women are fully executing all service missions in the Caribbean, as we continue to work closely with our CBIG, federal, state and municipal partners to protect the islands from illegal drug trafficking, migrant smuggling organizations and other illicit activities. Of equal importance, our crews are working tirelessly with our industry, federal, state and local port partners to facilitate safe and secure maritime commerce to the islands in this critical time.”

During a routine patrol of the Mona Passage late Wednesday night, the crew of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection DHC-8 maritime patrol aircraft detected a suspect “yola” type migrant vessel in waters south of Mona Island, Puerto Rico. A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air & Marine Operations (AMO) crew and the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Tezanos (WPC-1118) responded to carry out the interdiction. Upon arriving on scene, the AMO interceptor vessel stopped the 30-foot blue and wooden makeshift boat. Shortly thereafter, the Tezanos’ crew came alongside the interdicted vessel and embarked 35 migrants, including 30 men, four women and a female minor of Dominican nationality.

The cutter Joseph Tezanos transported the migrants to Dominican Republic waters, where they were repatriated at-sea just off Santo Domingo to a Dominican Republic Navy vessel.

Once aboard a Coast Guard cutter, all migrants receive food, water, shelter and basic medical attention. Throughout the interdiction Coast Guard crewmembers were equipped with Personal Protective Equipment to minimize potential exposure to any possible case of COVID-19. No migrants were reported to be sick or to have any COVID-19 related symptoms.

“Migrants attempting to enter Puerto Rico illegally by sea are risking their lives,” said Lt. Anthony Orr, Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Tezanos commanding officer. “In these Pandemic times, illegal immigration in the Mona Pass calls for our crews to maintain a heightened state of vigilance as the situation poses a serious risk for possible contamination to enter through our southernmost maritime border”

Cutter Joseph Tezanos is 154-foot fast response cutter homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Operation Caribbean Guard is a Department of Homeland Security multi-agency law enforcement operation to support ongoing efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands being executed under the San Juan Regional Coordinating Mechanism (SJ ReCoM)/Caribbean Border Interagency Group (CBIG).

CBIG 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, in their common goal of securing the borders of Puerto Rico against illegal migrant and drug smuggling.

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