SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Napier repatriated five of 12 migrants to the Dominican Republic Aug. 23 after Caribbean Border Interagency Group law enforcement authorities interdicted a boat just off the coast of Desecheo Island, Puerto Rico, the 7th Coast Guard District said in a release.
Six of the interdicted migrants, five Dominican and one of Mexican nationality, were brought ashore to Puerto Rico where they face potential federal criminal immigration charges for attempted illegal re-entry into the United States. One other Dominican migrant, also brought ashore, is undergoing further immigration processing.
“The coordination and swift response by the Caribbean Border Interagency Group law enforcement authorities involved in this case led to a rapid interdiction and safe removal of all 12 migrants,” said Cmdr. Christopher Douglas, Sector San Juan chief of response. “Migrants should not take to the sea, they not only risk going to jail, but also endanger their lives by entrusting smugglers to bring them across the dangerous waters of the Mona Passage aboard grossly overloaded makeshift boats with little or no lifesaving equipment onboard.”
During a routine patrol in the Mona Passage Aug. 21, the crew of a Customs and Border Protection maritime patrol aircraft detected a 20-foot migrant boat just off Desecheo Island traveling without navigational lights toward the west coast of Puerto Rico. Coast Guard Sector San Juan watchstanders diverted Joseph Napier to interdict the vessel and alerted Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action of the situation. An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Air Station Borinquen also responded to support the interdiction and provide any needed rescue assistance.
Shortly thereafter, the Puerto Rico Police marine unit came alongside and stopped the migrant vessel as Joseph Napier arrived on scene. The crew of Joseph Napier safely embarked all 12 migrants, 10 men and a woman of Dominican nationality and another man who was a Mexican national.
Once aboard a Coast Guard cutter, all migrants receive food, water, shelter and basic medical attention. Ramey Sector Border Patrol Agents in Puerto Rico took custody of the migrants facing prosecution, while the Joseph Napier transported the remaining migrants to Dominican Republic waters, where they embarked a Dominican Republic Navy patrol boat.
Joseph Napier is 154-foot fast response cutter homeported in San Juan.