CBP, Coast Guard Detect Small Boat in Caribbean with 157 Illegal Migrants

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents and U.S. Coast Guard personnel discovered 157 Dominicans aboard a small overloaded boat Tuesday afternoon. Eleven of the migrants were turned over to CBP Border Patrol agents for attempting to enter illegally into the United States or a U.S. Territory on multiple occasions. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Puerto Rico accepted to prosecute their cases. The rest were returned to the Dominican Republic.

The crew of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection surveillance aircraft detected and tracked a 40-foot to 45-foot long “yola-”type vessel early Tuesday afternoon while patrolling the northwestern waters of Puerto Rico, approximately 23 nautical miles north of the coastal town of Quebradilla. Two Coast Guard cutters were deployed to the scene. Helicopters from CBP and USCG were dispatched to provide rescue support at the scene.

At around 3 p.m. the Coast Guard cutters and marine units from CBP and the Puerto Rico Police Department interdicted the migrant vessel which held 120 men and 37 women. After USCG conducted biometric checks on each migrant they rendezvoused with U.S. Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and brought them on board the cutter Tuesday night to conduct migrant interviews and background checks on their biographic information.

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Key Largo turned over custody of the 41 detained Dominican migrants to Border Patrol agents, and then proceeded to the Dominican Republic to repatriate the remaining 146 migrants.

This case demonstrates the successful work of DHS’s US-VISIT program and the Coast Guard to collect and match illegal migrants’ biometrics in real time at sea. The Coast Guard’s use of US-VISIT’s biometric identification services is helping target human smugglers and protect migrants put at risk attempting to enter the United States illegally from the sea.

This operation was part of the larger Caribbean Border Interagency Group, the result of a March 2006 collaboration of local Homeland Security components that effectively stemmed the increased flow of traffic across the Mona Passage between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

In July 2006, CBIG was formally created to unify efforts of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Air & Marine, Office of Field Operations, and Office of Border Patrol along with the U.S. Coast Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the United States Attorney’s Office, District of Puerto Rico, and Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action in their common goal of securing Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands against illegal maritime traffic and gaining control of our nation’s Caribbean borders.

In the last 15 days a combined federal/local initiative has interdicted 317 migrants transiting through the Mona Passage and has brought 73 others ashore for prosecution.


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