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Press Release | Sept. 1, 2023

Coast Guard repatriates 59 migrants to Dominican Republic, following 2 separate vessel interdictions in the Mona Passage

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernandez crew repatriated 59 migrants to Dominican Republic, Thursday, following the interdiction of two overloaded vessels in Mona Passage waters off the west coast of Puerto Rico.

“Irregular migration voyages in the Mona Passage are highly dangerous and an unlawful means to enter the United States,” said Cmdr. Gerard Wenk, Sector San Juan chief of response.  “Anyone thinking of taking part in one of these voyages must understand that their life will be at risk, and when they are interdicted at sea or apprehended ashore, they will not be allowed to stay in Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands.”

Furthermore, anyone who arrives unlawfully will be repatriated to their country of origin and will be ineligible for legal immigration parole options.

During Tuesday’s interdiction, the Coast Guard Cutter Confidence crew stopped an overloaded vessel after the aircrew of a Coast Guard HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft detected the suspect vessel, approximately 15 nautical miles south southwest of Mona Island, Puerto Rico.  Cutter Confidence’s crew embarked 42 adult migrants, who all claimed to be Dominican Republic nationals.

During Wednesday’s interdiction, the aircrew of a Customs and Border Protection multi-role enforcement aircraft detected a suspect overloaded vessel in waters northwest of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. Responding Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action and Customs and Border Protection marine units stopped the vessel as the cutter Heriberto Hernandez arrived on scene and embarked the group of 17 migrants.  The interdicted migrants claimed to be Dominican Republic nationals. 

Cutter Heriberto Hernandez transported the migrants from both cases to Dominican Republic territorial waters, where the repatriation of the migrants was completed to a Dominican Republic Navy vessel just off Puna Cana.

The Coast Guard, along with its Homeland Security Task Force – Southeast partners, maintains a continual presence with air, land, and sea assets in the Florida Straits, the Windward Passage, the Mona Passage and the Caribbean Sea. The HSTF-SE combined, multi-layered approach is designed to protect the safety of life at sea while preventing unlawful maritime entry to the United States and its territories.

Since Oct. 1, 2022, through August 28, 2023, the Coast Guard has carried out 64 irregular migration voyage interdictions in the Mona Passage and waters near Puerto Rico. Interdicted during this period, are 1,965 non-U.S. citizens including 1,675 Dominicans, 264 Haitians, 15 Venezuelans, seven Kazakhs, one Albanian, two Colombians and one of unknown nationality.

Coast Guard Cutter Confidence is a 210-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Port Canaveral, Fla., while cutter Heriberto Hernandez is a 154-foot fast response cutter homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

U.S. residents inquiring about family members potentially interdicted at sea by the Coast Guard, please contact the office of your local federal U.S. representative or Senator. Relatives located outside the United States please contact family members who are U.S. residents to follow the same process on your behalf.

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