Coast Guard Interdicts 24 Migrants off Mona Island, Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Tahoma (WPC-908) repatriated 20 of 24 Dominican migrants to a Dominican Republic Navy vessel Feb. 11 just off Samana, Dominican Republic, following the interdiction of a makeshift boat Feb. 9, approximately five nautical miles west of Mona Island, Puerto Rico, the Coast Guard 7th District said in a Feb. 11 release.

Four men among the interdicted migrants are facing possible federal prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico for illegally attempting to reenter the United States.

Since October 2018, Coast Guard, federal and Puerto Rico law enforcement partners have interdicted at least 969 migrants and stopped several narcotics smuggling attempts throughout the Sector San Juan area of responsibility.

“Despite challenging conditions, the Coast Guard crews involved in this event utilized their training and expertise to successfully rescue all 24 people from the unseaworthy vessel,” said Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Haddad, Sector San Juan chief of enforcement. “These illegal maritime migration voyages are extremely dangerous and put the safety of those onboard in great jeopardy. The Coast Guard, in conjunction with our partners, remain poised to intercept these smuggling events in an effort to prevent the unnecessary loss of life.”

The crew of a Coast Guard HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft from Air Station Miami, while on a routine patrol of the Mona Passage, detected a 22-foot makeshift wooden boat late Friday night with an undetermined number of passengers aboard transiting towards Puerto Rico. The migrants were continuously bailing out water to prevent their vessel from sinking.

The Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Tezanos (WPC-118) diverted and interdicted the migrant vessel Saturday morning, when the crew embarked all 24 migrants, 20 men and four women, and destroyed the migrant boat as a hazard to navigation. Afterwards, the migrants were embarked aboard Coast Guard Cutter Richard Dixon (WPC-1113) and then to the Coast Guard Tahoma (WMEC-908) for their repatriation. The crew of the Tahoma completed the transfer of the four detained migrants Sunday to Border Patrol agents in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.

Following at-sea interdictions, illegal migrants stopped are repatriated to their country of origin or returned to their place of departure. In some cases, those migrants found to have a criminal history with possible connection to smuggling operations are turned over to law enforcement authorities for further prosecution by the Department of Justice. Once aboard a Coast Guard cutter, all migrants receive food, water, shelter and basic medical attention.

The Joseph Tezanos and Richard Dixon are 154-foot fast response cutters homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico, while the Tahoma is a 270-foot medium endurance cutter based out of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine. The new Offshore Patrol Cutter will eventually replace Tahoma and other ships in its

class, which will be able to carry out Coast Guard missions with greater endurance and interoperability with military and federal partners.