MIAMI FLORIDA (January 15, 2019)(CNBNewsnet)— The Coast Guard interdicted 66 migrants in the last 72-hours in five separate events near Puerto Rico.
The Coast Guard, and federal and Commonwealth of Puerto Rico law enforcement partners have interdicted more than 380 migrants and stopped several narcotics smuggling attempts since October of 2018.
“These recent migrant and drug interdiction cases, though smaller than what we see at our land borders, are a reminder of the constant threat toward the American citizens of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands,” said Rear Adm. Peter Brown, Coast Guard 7th District commander. “With the consistent danger these smuggling ventures present surrounding Puerto Rico and the USVI, our crews and partner agencies remain persistently vigilant to protect our fellow Americans.”
On Thursday at approximately 11 p.m., a Custom and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations DH-8 located a significantly overloaded 25-foot migrant vessel approximately 39 miles northeast of Cabo Engaño, Dominican Republic. The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernandez (WPC-1114) was diverted and embarked 25 Dominican migrants.
On Friday, the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Dauntless (WMEC-624) interdicted a 20-foot migrant vessel with 11 Dominican migrants approximately 35 miles northeast of Cabo Engaño, Dominican Republic. A Custom and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations DH-8 airplane crew located another migrant vessel approximately 92 miles northwest of Desecheo, Puerto Rico and the Coast Guard Cutter Winslow Griesser (WPC-1116) embarked nine Dominican migrants. A Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew located a third migrant vessel approximately 4 miles east of Mona Island, Puerto Rico and the cutter Winslow Griesser embarked an additional 17 Dominican migrants.
Monday morning, three Dominican migrants and one Mexican migrant were stopped approximately four nautical miles off Manatí, Puerto Rico. An initial investigation has connected the Mexican national with possible gang affiliations.
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 and the Department of Justice for further prosecution.
Approximately 708 migrants have attempted to enter Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands illegally through the maritime environment since Oct. 1. This number represents the total number of at-sea interdictions, landings, and disrupted migration attempts. The U.S. Coast Guard has interdicted approximately 383 migrants attempting to illegally enter Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands since Oct. 1, compared to 128 migrants interdicted during the same time period in the year prior. This represents approximately a 200 percent increase of interdictions from the previous year for the Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard also interdicted approximately 15,375 pounds of illegal narcotics, which includes cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl, since October 1, 2018 through multiple illegal smuggling ventures attempting to enter into Puerto Rico and the U.S Virgin Islands.
Once aboard a Coast Guard cutter, all migrants receive food, water, shelter and basic medical attention
The Dauntless is a 210-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Pensacola, Florida. The cutters Heriberto Hernandez and the Winslow Griesser are 154-foot fast response cutters homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The Coast Guard’s efforts under Operation Unified Resolve contribute to the interagency results being achieved each and every day locally under Operation Caribbean Guard, which coordinates efforts between the Coast Guard, its DHS, Commonwealth and Territorial law enforcement partners, who are working diligently to deter, detect and disrupt illicit maritime trafficking to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The Caribbean Border Interagency Group 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 (FURA, for its Spanish acronym), in their common goal of securing the borders of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands against illegal migrant and drug smuggling.