SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Coast Guard crews repatriated 65 migrants to the Dominican Republic between Sunday and Wednesday, following the interdiction of two overloaded vessels in Mona Passage waters off the west coast of Puerto Rico.
Four Dominican men who were interdicted, Monday, are facing federal prosecution at the U.S. District Court in Puerto Rico on a range of charges including attempted illegal re-entry into the United States under 8 U.S.C. 1326, bringing in and harboring unlawfully non-U.S. citizens under 8 U.S.C 1324, and failure to heave to under 18 U.S.C. 2237.
During Monday’s interdiction, the Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Napier and responding Customs and Border Protection Caribbean Air and Marine Branch surface units stopped a non-compliant, overloaded vessel approximately six nautical miles off the coast of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. The vessel was initially detected by the aircrew of a Customs and Border Protection multi-role enforcement aircraft.
Cutter Joseph Napier’s crew embarked 21 migrants from the interdicted vessel, who claimed to be Dominican Republic nationals. Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernandez transferred four migrants to Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, where U.S. Border Patrol Ramey Sector agents received custody. The remaining 17 migrants were later transported to Dominican Republic territorial waters and transferred to a Dominican Republic Navy vessel for repatriation.
During Saturday’s interdiction, the Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernandez interdicted an overloaded vessel that was carrying 48 migrants, approximately 60 nautical miles northwest of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. The cutter Heriberto Hernandez crew embarked the migrants, who claimed to be Dominican Republic nationals, and completed their repatriation to the Dominican Republic.
“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 or departure and may be declared ineligible for legal immigration parole options.
“I'm extremely proud of this crew's professionalism and dedication,” said Lt. Matt Carmine, Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Napier commanding officer. “Their ability to seamlessly integrate with federal and local partners to safely carry out the interdiction of a noncompliant vessel attempting to illegally enter the United States is a testament to their hard work and training.”
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 Sep. 30, 2023, the Coast Guard has carried out 67 unlawful irregular maritime migration voyage interdictions in the Mona Passage and waters near Puerto Rico. Interdicted during this period, are 2,161 non-U.S. citizens including 1,871 Dominicans, 264 Haitians, 15 Venezuelans, 07 Kazakhs, 01 Albanian, 02 Colombians and 01 unknown nationality.
Cutter Heriberto Hernandez and Cutter Joseph Napier are 154-foot Sentinel class fast response cutters 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.
Make a difference on land, at sea or in the air with the U.S. Coast Guard. Visit www.gocoastguard.com to find out how to be a part of the team.
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