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Press Release | May 8, 2024

Coast Guard repatriates 51 migrants to Dominican Republic following vessel interdiction near Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Tezanos repatriated 51 migrants to Dominican Republic, Tuesday, following the interdiction of an unlawful, irregular migration attempt near Puerto Rico.

The repatriated migrants were transferred to Dominican Republic Navy vessel off Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. One other migrant interdicted in the group remains in U.S. custody to face federal prosecution under 8 U.S. Code § 1324.

During a Saturday evening patrol, the aircrew of a Coast Guard HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft sighted a 30-foot makeshift vessel taking part in an unlawful maritime migration voyage, approximately 27 nautical miles southwest of Mona Island, Puerto Rico. The Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Tezanos’ crew responded to interdict the suspect vessel. Once on scene, the cutter crew stopped the vessel and embarked 52 migrants, 51 claimed to be Dominican Republic nationals and one other who claimed to be Haitian.

“This successful interdiction was due to the swift response and professionalism of the Coast Guard units and watchstanders involved,” said Lt. Cmdr. Edward Kunigonis, Sector San Juan chief of enforcement. “These voyages continuously threaten the safety of migrants, many of which do not fully understand how truly dangerous the voyage may be until it is too late. We urge anyone thinking of taking part in an unlawful maritime migration voyage to not take to the sea; use lawful pathways.”

Migrants who are interdicted at sea or apprehended ashore will not be allowed to stay in the United States or a U.S. territory. Furthermore, anyone who arrives unlawfully may be declared ineligible for legal immigration parole options and be repatriated to their country of origin or returned to the country from where the voyage departed from.

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 October 1, 2023, through April 30, 2024, the Coast Guard has carried out 35 unlawful irregular migration voyage interdictions in the Mona Passage and waters near Puerto Rico. Interdicted during this period, are 1,199 non-U.S. citizens including 1,141 Dominicans, 57 Haitians 01 Venezuelan.

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