SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – The Coast Guard Cutter Matinicus repatriated 31 Dominicans to La Romana, Dominican Republic Monday, following an at-sea interdiction Feb. 16 by Caribbean Border Interagency Group law enforcement authorities, approximately twelve nautical miles off the coast of Desecheo, Puerto Rico.
Assistant United States Attorney Evelyn Canals with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Puerto Rico has agreed to prosecute six Dominican nationals, who were also traveling aboard the migrant vessel, on charges of illegal entry into a United States Territory.
On Saturday morning Coast Guard Sector San Juan Watchstanders were contacted by Customs and Border Protection and Caribbean Air and Marine Branch agents. The agents reported that the crew of a CBP maritime patrol aircraft, that was patrolling in support of Operation Caribbean Guard, had located a migrant vessel transiting from the Dominican Republic towards the west coast of Puerto Rico.
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Matinicus responded and interdicted the migrant vessel and embarked the migrants from the makeshift wooden boat.
Biometrics processing was conducted to determine if any migrants had previous criminal or illegal immigration history in the United States or a U.S. Territory.
“Luckily no lives were lost during this treacherous voyage,” said Capt. Drew Pearson, commander of Coast Guard Sector San Juan. “This is in part due to the coordinated efforts of all law enforcement agencies and governments across the region and sheer luck. For those thinking about taking to the sea, don’t do it, it could cost you your life.”
The Matinicus afterwards rendezvoused with CBP Border Patrol agents in Anasco, Puerto Rico, Sunday, where Border Patrol agents came aboard, interviewed the undocumented migrants and took six Dominicans into custody for criminal prosecution.
The Matinicus proceeded to transit to La Romana, Dominican Republic, where they transferred custody of the 31 remaining Dominicans to awaiting Dominican Republic Navy authorities ashore Monday morning.
Operation Caribbean Guard is a Department of Homeland Security multi-agency law enforcement operation to support ongoing efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands being executed under the San Juan Regional Coordinating Mechanism and Caribbean Border Interagency Group.
CBIG was formally created to unify efforts of the 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 and the U.S. Virgin Islands against illegal migrant and drug smuggling.
The Coast Guard supports this initiative by forward deploying Coast Guard resources and capabilities from the United States, such as HC-130 and HC-144 maritime patrol aircraft and additional Coast Guard cutters, to augment locally assigned federal resources and strengthen patrol efforts to deter, detect and disrupt illicit migrant trafficking in and around Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Also, CBIG works closely with international partners, specifically the Dominican Republic's Armed Forces and National Directorate for Drug Control.
Coast Guard Cutter Matinicus is a 110-foot patrol boat homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico.