Coast Guard repatriates 35 migrants to the Dominican Republic following at-sea interdiction off Puerto Rico

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U.S. Coast Guard 7th District Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands
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Coast Guard repatriates 35 migrants to the Dominican Republic following at-sea interdiction off Puerto Rico

A 20-foot migrant vessel with 38 migrants, 32 Dominican and two Brazilian nationals, was interdicted April 5, 2018 by the U.S. Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection surface and air assets in Mona Passage waters off Puerto Rico. The interdiction was a result of Caribbean Border Interagency Group unified efforts to secure Puerto Rico's maritime border against illegal migrant smuggling.  

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The Coast Guard repatriated 35 Dominican nationals Monday night to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, from a group of 38 migrants interdicted by Caribbean Border Interagency Group law enforcement authorities in Mona Passage waters approximately 46 miles northwest of Puerto Rico.

Among the group of migrants interdicted, a Dominican man is facing potential federal criminal immigration charges for attempted illegal reentry into the U.S., while two Brazilian men are awaiting further interviews by U.S. immigration authorities.

“The resolve and efficient coordination between Coast Guard and Caribbean Border Interagency Group partners operating daily to identify maritime threats in our area led to the detection and successful interdiction of this overloaded and unseaworthy vessel,” said Lt. Cmdr. Michael Vega, Sector San Juan chief of enforcement. “Each interdiction helps secure our maritime border from illegal immigration and deters the smugglers who put the lives of these people in jeopardy from taking to sea in unsafe boats.” 

During a routine patrol in the Mona Passage Thursday night, the crew of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection aircraft initially detected a group of migrants traveling aboard a 20-foot wooden and overloaded makeshift boat, approximately 46 miles northwest of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico.

Coast Guard Sector San Juan watchstanders diverted the Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Tezanos crew to interdict the migrant vessel and launched a Coast Guard HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft crew, which relieved the Customs and Border Protection aircraft and maintained aerial surveillance throughout the interdiction.

Shortly thereafter, the cutter Joseph Tezanos crew arrived on scene, stopped the migrant vessel and safely embarked all 38 migrants, 32 men and six women, aboard the cutter. Once aboard a Coast Guard cutter, all migrants receive food, water, shelter and basic medical attention.

The cutter Joseph Tezanos crew destroyed the migrant vessel as a danger to navigation.

Ramey Sector Border Patrol Agents in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico took custody of the migrant facing potential federal prosecution, while the cutter Joseph Tezanos crew repatriated the remaining 35 migrants to the Dominican Republic.

The Coast Guard Joseph Tezanos is 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.