Coast Guard repatriates 86 Haitian migrants, detains 3 Dominican smugglers near Desecheo Island, Puerto Rico

Southeastern Coast Guard News
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Venturous repatriated 86 Haitian migrants to Cap Haitien, Haiti Monday, following an at-sea interdiction early Thursday, approximately four nautical miles off Desecheo Island, Puerto Rico.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Puerto Rico will be filing migrant smuggling charges against three suspected Dominican smugglers interdicted in the group.

While on a routine patrol Thursday morning, the Coast Guard Cutter Sapelo intercepted a “yola,” type vessel loaded with Haitian migrants and suspected smugglers off the coast of Desecheo Island. The Coast Guard Cutter Richard Etheridge and a MH-65 helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen arrived on-scene shortly thereafter to provide support.

“This group, which included an eleven-year-old boy, is safe today due to the untiring efforts of our Coast Guardsmen and our interagency partners,” said Capt. Drew Pearson, Coast Guard Sector San Juan commander. “While we continue to aggressively carry out our mission to protect those on the sea, don’t put your life, or the life of a loved one in the hands of ruthless smugglers based on promises they can’t fulfill. As to the smugglers, they will have their day in court,” said Pearson.

The crews of the Sapelo and the Richard Etheridge embarked all migrants aboard the Sapelo, where they were provided with food, water, and shelter. The crew of the Sapelo also processed the migrants to determine if any had previous criminal or illegal immigration history in the United States or a U.S. Territory.

The Sapelo rendezvoused with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations agents Friday in Añasco, Puerto Rico, where the suspected smugglers were taken into custody for criminal prosecution.

The Coast Guard Cutter Venturous embarked the remaining migrants from the Sapelo and repatriated them upon transferring their custody to authorities in Cap Haitien, Haiti.

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

The Coast Guard Cutter Richard Etheridge is a 154-foot fast response cutter, homeported in Miami.

The Coast Guard Cutter Venturous is a 210-foot medium endurance cutter, homeported in St. Petersburg, Fla.

For more information on how to legally immigrate to the United States, call U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) at 1-800-375-5283 or visit the USCIS website at

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 and the U.S. Virgin Islands against illegal migrant and drug smuggling.

The Coast Guard’s efforts under Operation Unified Resolve contribute to the interagency results being achieved each and every day locally under Operation Caribbean Guard, which coordinates efforts between the Coast Guard, its DHS, Commonwealth and Territorial law enforcement partners, who are working diligently to deter, detect and disrupt illicit maritime trafficking to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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