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Press Release | Nov. 3, 2023

Coast Guard rescues, repatriates 89 migrants to Dominican Republic following vessel interdiction in Mona Passage

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Coast Guard crews repatriated 89 migrants to the Dominican Republic, Thursday, following the interdiction of an overloaded, makeshift vessel in Mona Passage waters off the western coast of Puerto Rico.  

During a Tuesday night patrol, a Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine multirole enforcement aircraft aircrew detected a suspect vessel in Mona Passage waters northwest of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. Coast Guard watchstanders at Sector San Juan diverted the Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Doyle to intercept the vessel. Once on scene, the cutter Joseph Doyle launched the cutter’s Over the Horizon boat and stopped the grossly overloaded vessel. The crew of the cutter Joseph Doyle safely embarked 75 men and 14 women who claimed to be Dominican Republic nationals.  

“A vessel as overloaded as this one is at risk for capsizing or sinking with the frequent squalls and weather events in the Mona Passage,” Lt. Cmdr. David Radin, Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Doyle commanding officer. “With no apparent navigation or safety equipment on this boat the risk of getting lost and stranded at sea is real, not to mention the danger posed by large vessels transiting legally in the area who can’t detect a small yola in the darkness.”  

“A potential tragedy was averted in this case as our Coast Guard and partner agency crews helped rescue 89 people from a vessel that was taking on water more than forty miles from shore,” said Cmdr. Gerard Wenk, Sector San Juan chief of response. “Most of the time people taking part in an unlawful irregular maritime migration voyage do not understand they are risking their lives until it is too late. It is also important they understand that, whether 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 returned to the country they departed from and may be declared ineligible for legal immigration parole options.

Cutter Joseph Doyle later rendezvoused with a Dominican Republic Navy vessel just off Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, where the repatriation was completed.  

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, 2023, through Oct. 31, 2023, the Coast Guard has carried out nine unlawful irregular migration voyage interdictions in the Mona Passage and waters near Puerto Rico. Interdicted during this period, are 206 non-U.S. citizens including 201 Dominicans, and five Haitians. 

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 Joseph Doyle is a 154-foot Sentinel class 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.  

Make a difference on land, at sea or in the air with the Coast Guard.  Visit to find out how to be part of a team.  

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