October 8, 2019 – The Coast Guard Cutters Joseph Tezanos (WPC-1118) and Heriberto Hernandez (WPC-1114) repatriated 82 Dominican migrants and 5 Haitians to a Dominican Republic Navy vessel Monday, following the interdiction of five illegal migrant voyages in the Mona Passage.
Eight other Dominican migrants remain in Puerto Rico to face possible federal prosecution on charges of violating 8 USC 1326, for attempting to illegally reenter the United States, which carries a potential maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years and a fine of up to $250,000.
The interdictions were a result of ongoing efforts in support of Operation Unified Resolve, Operation Caribbean Guard and the Caribbean Border Interagency Group (CBIG). Since Oct. 1, 2018, the Coast Guard and CBIG federal and state partner agencies interdicted 2,078 migrants at sea near Puerto Rico.
“The Coast Guard, along with our partners in the Caribbean Border Interagency Group, remains postured with cutters and aircraft to stop illegal maritime migration in the Mona Passage and the Caribbean,” said Capt. Eric King, Commander of Coast Guard Sector San Juan. “These five interdictions highlight our shared capabilities and abilities to interdict multiple illegal voyages before they reach shore as well as the potential risks of migrants going to prison when they attempt to enter the country illegally.”
The first interdiction took place Friday morning, after a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine Operations DHC-8 marine patrol aircraft crew sighted a migrant boat just off Mona Island, Puerto Rico. The Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk (WMEC-913) diverted to the scene and interdicted the 17-foot boat with 13 adult male Dominican migrants aboard. Hours later, the crew of a Coast Guard HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft detected a second migrant boat near Mona Island. The cutter Mohawk interdicted the makeshift vessel with 20 Dominican men aboard.
The third and fourth interdictions took place Saturday after a Coast Guard HC-144 aircraft and the crew of a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Air Station Borinquen detected two illegal voyages transiting the Mona Passage towards Puerto Rico. The cutter Heriberto Hernandez interdicted one of the vessels with 14 Dominican migrants, 12men and two women, and the other with 34 migrants including five Haitian, a woman and four men, and 29 Dominicans, 27 men and two women.
The fifth interdiction took place Sunday after a Coast Guard HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft detected an illegal migrant voyage transiting the Mona Passage towards Puerto Rico. The cutter Joseph Tezanos diverted and interdicted a 25-foot makeshift boat with 14 Dominican migrants aboard, 13 men and a woman.
Ramey Sector Border Patrol agents in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico received custody of the eight migrants awaiting federal prosecution.
Once aboard a Coast Guard cutter, all migrants receive food, water, shelter and basic medical attention.
The Coast Guard Cutters Joseph Tezanos and Heriberto Hernandez are fast response cutters homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico, while the cutter Mohawk is a medium endurance cutter homeported in Key West, Fla.