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Press Release | May 28, 2024

Coast Guard repatriates 136 migrants to Dominican Republic, following 3 separate interdictions near Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Coast Guard cutters repatriated 136 migrants to the Dominican Republic between May 21 and May 27, following three separate interdictions of unlawful, irregular migration attempts near Puerto Rico.

The most recent of the interdictions occurred May 21, 2024, after the aircrew of a maritime patrol aircraft detected a 30-foot makeshift vessel, approximately 63 nautical miles north of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Coast Guard watchstanders at Sector San Juan diverted the Coast Guard Cutter Richard Dixon that arrived on scene, stopped the migrant vessel and embarked 61 migrants, 59 Dominican Republic and two Haitian nationals.

The second interdiction occurred May 20, 2024, when Customs and Border Protection (CBP) marine units interdicted a grossly overloaded makeshift vessel, approximately two nautical miles west of Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico. Coast Guard watchstanders diverted the Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Tezanos which rendezvoused with CBP and a Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action marine units and embarked 68 migrants, 60 Dominican Republic and eight Haitian nationals.

The first interdiction occurred May 17, after the aircrew of a Coast Guard HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft sighted a 24-foot makeshift vessel taking part in an unlawful maritime migration voyage, approximately 52 nautical miles northwest of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. Coast Guard watchstanders diverted the Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Napier which arrived on scene and embarked eight migrants who claimed to be Dominican Republic nationals. 

“As smuggling organizations seek to exploit people for profit by exposing them to the dangers of unlawful maritime migration, the Coast Guard and our partners will remain fully invested in stopping these voyages and preserving the safety of life at sea,” said Lt. Cmdr. Edward Kunigonis, Coast Guard Sector San Juan chief of enforcement. “We urge anyone thinking of taking part in these voyages to not take to the sea. Most often, migrants don’t realize how truly dangerous these voyages can be, or that they will fall victim, until it is too late.”

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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