SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernandez repatriated 72 Dominicans and returned 14 Haitians to the Dominican Republic between Wednesday and Thursday, following the interdiction of two illegal voyages in Mona Passage waters near Aguadilla, Puerto Rico.
One interdicted Dominican Republic national remains in Puerto Rico to face federal prosecution on charges of attempted illegal reentry into the United States. The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico is leading the prosecution in this case.
These interdictions are the result of ongoing local and federal multi-agency efforts in support of the Caribbean Border Interagency Group (CBIG).
“We are very proud of cutter Heriberto Hernandez’s crew performance these past few days,” said Capt. Gregory H. Magee, Commander of U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Juan. “Their actions helped safeguard the nation’s southernmost maritime border while saving the lives of nearly 90 Dominican and Haitian nationals from two illegal voyages. These voyages put thousands of lives at risk every year. If you are thinking of taking part in an illegal voyage, do not take to the sea! If caught, you will be returned to your country of origin or you could find yourself facing criminal prosecution in U.S. courts.”
The first interdiction occurred Tuesday, after the aircrew of a Customs and Border Protection Marine Enforcement Aircraft detected a suspect illegal voyage in the Mona Passage transiting towards Puerto Rico. Following the sighting, the Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernandez interdicted the 30-foot makeshift boat and embarked all the passengers who were onboard. The cutter Heriberto Hernandez crew repatriated 30 Dominican Republic nationals and returned seven Haitian males from this group to a Dominican Republic Navy vessel Wednesday.
The second interdiction occurred Wednesday morning, after the aircrew of a Customs and Border Protection Marine Enforcement Aircraft detected a suspect illegal voyage in the Mona Passage near Puerto Rico. The interdicted vessel was grossly overloaded and capsized shortly thereafter, throwing most of the vessel passengers into the water. The cutter Heriberto Hernandez crew, with the assistance of on-scene Puerto Rico Police marine units, safely recovered and embarked all the vessel passengers. The cutter Heriberto Hernandez repatriated 42 Dominican Republic nationals and returned seven Haitian males from this group to a Dominican Republic Navy vessel Thursday.
Once aboard a Coast Guard cutter, all migrants receive food, water, shelter and basic medical attention. Throughout the interdiction, Coast Guard crewmembers were equipped with personal protective equipment to minimize potential exposure to any possible case of COVID-19.
Since Oct. 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022, the Coast Guard and CBIG partner agencies have carried out 53 illegal voyage interdictions in Mona Passage and Caribbean waters near Puerto Rico. Interdicted during this period, are 1,308 non-U.S. citizens comprised mostly of Dominican Republic and Haitian nationals (940 Dominicans, 298 Haitians, 24, Cuban, 1 Ecuadorian, 36 Venezuelan).
- 463 Dominican, 15 Haitians in Fiscal Year 2021
- 491 Dominican, 08 Haitians in Fiscal Year 2020
- 429 Dominican, 06 Haitians in Fiscal Year 2019
- 280 Dominican, 04 Haitians in Fiscal Year 2018
- 262 Dominican, 03 Haitians in Fiscal Year 2017
- 246 Dominican, 19 Haitians in Fiscal Year 2016
Family members in the United States inquiring about possible family members interdicted at sea, please contact your local U.S. representative. Relatives located outside the United States please contact your local U.S. Embassy.
CBIG unifies efforts between U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico, and Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action, in their common goal of securing the borders of Puerto Rico against illegal migrant and drug smuggling.
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Source: Coast Guard News