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Face of Defense: Coast Guard repatriates 66 migrants to the Dominican Republic


The Coast Guard Cutter Escanaba (WMEC-907) interdicted a 30-foot makeshift boat with 28 migrants onboard May 21, 2019, approximately 20 nautical miles northwest of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. The cutter Escanaba repatriated 66 of 68 migrants to the Dominican Republic May 23, 2019, from three at-sea interdictions this week. Two of the migrants remain in federal custody in Puerto Rico awaiting possible prosecution for attempted illegal reentry into a U.S. territory.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -May 23, 2019--(gloucestercitynews.net)— The Coast Guard repatriated 66 migrants to a Dominican Navy vessel in Dominican Republic waters Thursday afternoon, following the interdiction of three illegal migrant vessels in the Mona Passage earlier this week.

Two of the interdicted migrants, one Haitian and a Dominican man, remain in federal custody facing possible prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico on potential charges of attempted illegal reentry into a U.S. territory.

The interdictions are the result of ongoing efforts in support of Operation Unified Resolve, Operation Caribbean Guard and the Caribbean Border Interagency Group (CBIG).

“I’m extremely proud of my crew and the collaboration with our Caribbean Border Interagency Group partners,” said Cmdr. Michael A. Nalli, Coast Guard Cutter Escanaba (WMEC-907) commanding officer.  “Our collective efforts led to the successful interdiction of three grossly overloaded, unseaworthy vessels and the safe recovery of all 68 migrants.  Crossing the Mona Passage in these makeshift vessels is an extremely dangerous voyage, where the migrants risk losing their lives or the life of a loved one.  I am very pleased we were able to rescue each of these individuals and provide them humanitarian care aboard Escanaba.”

While on a routine patrol in the Mona Passage Monday night, crews of Customs and Border Protection DHC-8 maritime patrol aircraft detected the two migrant vessels transiting without navigational lights.  The first boat was located 43 nautical miles north of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, while the second was detected, approximately 15 nautical miles northwest of Desecheo Island, Puerto Rico.

Coast Guard Watchstanders in Sector San Juan diverted cutter Escanaba to interdict the suspect vessels. Shortly thereafter, and with the cutter boat’s assistance, the Escanaba interdicted a 20-foot makeshift boat with 19 adult migrants onboard.  The Escanaba crew embarked 14 men and five women, who claimed Dominican nationality.

Following the first interdiction, the Escanaba proceeded to intercept the second migrant vessel.  Once on scene, the Escanaba cutter boat crew and a CBP Caribbean Air and Marine interceptor surface unit stopped a 25-foot makeshift boat with 21 adult migrants onboard.  The Escanaba crew embarked 18 men and three women of Dominican nationality.

A third migrant vessel was detected Tuesday night by the crew of a CBP DHC-8 maritime patrol aircraft, approximately 20 nautical miles northwest of Aguadilla.  The Escanaba crew interdicted the 30-foot makeshift boat and safely embarked 28 adult migrants, 21 men and seven women of Dominican nationality, as well as, a Haitian man.

Once aboard a Coast Guard cutter, all migrants receive food, water, shelter and basic medical attention.

The Escanaba transferred custody of the two migrants facing federal prosecution to the Coast Guard Cutter Richard Dixon (WPB-1113) for further transfer to Ramey Sector Border Patrol agents in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.

The Coast Guard’s efforts under Operation Unified Resolve contribute to the interagency results being achieved daily 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 unifies efforts between 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. These agencies share a common goal of securing the maritime border of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands against illegal migrant and drug smuggling threats.

The Escanaba is a 270-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Boston, Massachusetts, while the Richard Dixon is a 154 fast response cutter homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

published gloucestercitynews.net | May 23, 2019