MIAMI — The crew aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Forward safely repatriated 75 Haitian migrants to Cap Haitien, Haiti, March 26, after four suspected Dominican smugglers failed to smuggle them from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico in two separate cases last week. In the first case, a Coast Guard MH-65 rescue helicopter crew detected a vessel with 62 Haitian migrants and two suspected Dominican smugglers in the vicinity of Mona Island, Puerto Rico, at approximately 5:00 p.m. March 21. Coast Guard Sector San Juan watchstanders successfully coordinated air and marine assets to assist with the interdiction and transfer of all 62 migrants from the overcrowded migrant vessel to the Coast Guard Cutter Farallon. Within hours of this apprehension, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Maritime Patrol Aircraft alerted Coast Guard assets of another vessel suspected of transporting migrants in the vicinity of Mona Island. The Coast Guard and CBP conducted a joint operation to interdict the vessel and detain all 13 Haitian migrants and two suspected Dominican smugglers. “U.S. Coast Guard cutters, helicopters, and fixed-wing aircraft continually patrol the Caribbean to respond to life-threatening migrant smuggling attempts like this," said Capt. McPherson, chief of enforcement for the 7th Coast Guard District. The migrants from both vessels were transported to cutter Farallon where they received food, water, and medical attention. The Haitian migrants were later transferred to the Coast Guard Cutter Forward where they were repatriated. The Dominican migrants were transferred to CBP agents for further prosecution under U.S. immigration law. Capt. McPherson added, “Migrant vessels are typically overloaded and ill-equipped for dangerous ocean voyages, risking the lives of everyone aboard. We are especially concerned that unscrupulous migrant smugglers and organizers may try to take advantage of recently announced changes due to sequestration, but we continue our patrols and undocumented migrants interdicted at sea will be repatriated to their country of origin. Together with our partner agencies we will vigorously investigate and prosecute migrant smuggling and associated crimes." To date in fiscal year 2013, which began Oct. 1, 2012, the Coast Guard has interdicted 361 Haitian migrants and 60 Dominican migrants. Interdiction this time last fiscal year from October 2011 to March 26, 2012 was 785 Haitian migrants and 245 Dominican migrants.
This case marks another successful migrant interdiction by partner agencies in the Caribbean Border Interagency Group (CBIG), whose assets have seen a recent rise in the number of migrant cases off the west coast of Puerto Rico. The group was formally created to unify the efforts of the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection , Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Office of Border Patrol – Ramey Sector, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of the Virgin Islands, 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 cutter Farallon is a 110-foot patrol boat, homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The cutter Forward is a 270-foot Medium Endurance Cutter, homeported in Portsmouth, VA.