Coast Guard repatriates 37 of 38 migrants to the Dominican Republic

The crew of the cutter Heriberto Hernandez (WPB-1114) repatriates nine migrants to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic July 9, 2020, after the group was interdicted a day earlier by a Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action marine unit just off the coast of Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico.

The crew of the cutter Heriberto Hernandez repatriates nine migrants to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic July 9, 2020.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The Coast Guard repatriated 37 of 38 migrants to the Dominican Republic Navy between July 3, 2020 and Thursday, following the interdiction of three illegal voyages in the Mona Passage off the west coast of Puerto Rico.

Thirty seven of the interdicted migrants are reported to be Dominican Republic nationals, while one other is Venezuelan. One of the migrants remains in U.S. custody facing federal criminal immigration charges in Puerto Rico.

The interdictions are the result of ongoing efforts in support of Operation Caribbean Guard and the Caribbean Border Interagency Group CBIG.

“Despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the collective resolve, coordination and operational capacity between the Coast Guard, our Caribbean Border Interagency Group partners and our Dominican Republic Navy ally’s remains as strong and reliable as always,” said Cmdr. Beau Powers, U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Juan chief of response. “Our ability to work cohesively in this fluid and challenging environment allows for the positive outcomes experienced in these cases, which greatly contribute to safeguarding the security of our nation’s southernmost maritime border.”

The first illegal voyage was detected the morning of July 2 by the crew of a Customs and Border Protection Marine Enforcement Aircraft, approximately 12 nautical miles northwest of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. The Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernandez (WPC-1114), with the assistance of the crew of a Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen MH-65 Dolphin helicopter, stopped a makeshift boat that was transporting 11 men and a woman. The crew of cutter Heriberto Hernandez safely embarked the migrants, who were later transferred to the Coast Guard Cutter Richard Dixon (WPB-1116) and transported the evening of July 3 to Dominican Republic territorial waters, where they were repatriated to the Dominican Republic Navy vessel Bellatrix.

The second migrant voyage was interdicted Saturday morning by two Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action marine units, approximately three nautical miles northeast from the lighthouse in Rincón, Puerto Rico. The Coast Guard Cutter Richard Dixon arrived on scene with the 24-foot migrant boat and embarked the 16 men and a woman who were aboard. The cutter Richard Dixon transported the migrants to Dominican Republic territorial waters, where they were repatriated to a Dominican Republic Navy patrol boat just off Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

The third illegal voyage was interdicted Tuesday night by a Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action marine unit just off Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico. The cutter Heriberto Hernandez arrived on scene with the 22-foot migrant boat and embarked the nine migrants, eight adult men and a male minor. One of the adults in this group claimed to be of Venezuelan nationality. The cutter Heriberto Hernandez transported the migrant group to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, where they were received by Dominican Republic Navy officials.

Once aboard a Coast Guard cutter, all migrants received 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 have any COVID-19 related symptoms.

Cutters Heriberto Hernandez and Richard Dixon are 154-foot fast response cutters 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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