52 US-bound migrants apprehended off Puerto Rico packed inside rickety boat

52 US-bound migrants apprehended off Puerto Rico packed inside rickety boat

The U.S. Coast Guard intercepted dozens of migrants on Tuesday who were crammed inside a “makeshift” boat near Puerto Rico making a treacherous journey to the U.S.  

The rickety, 30-foot-long, white-colored vessel, which had “J5” painted across its side, was picked up about 27 nautical miles southwest of Puerto Rico’s Mona Island with 51 desperate migrants and a suspected smuggler inside, officials said. 

The 51 migrants are from the Dominican Republic while the suspected smuggler, who the Coast Guard also described as being a migrant, is from Haiti, the Coast Guard said in a press release. 

The Dominican migrants were sent back to their home country by way of a Dominican Republic Navy vessel while the Haitian is in U.S. custody and is facing federal prosecution under unauthorized alien smuggling laws. 


Officials said that members aboard a Coast Guard plane – an HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft – spotted the “makeshift vessel taking part in an unlawful maritime migration voyage” on Saturday night. Puerto Rico is about 1,000 miles from the Florida Keys in southern Florida.

The crew of the Coast Guard cutter Joseph Tezanos then responded to interdict the suspect vessel. 


“This successful interdiction was due to the swift response and professionalism of the Coast Guard units and watchstanders involved,” Lt. Cmdr. Edward Kunigonis, chief of enforcement of the San Juan sector, said. 

“These voyages continuously threaten the safety of migrants, many of which do not fully understand how truly dangerous the voyage may be until it is too late. We urge anyone thinking of taking part in an unlawful maritime migration voyage to not take to the sea; use lawful pathways.”

The Coast Guard did not provide the age or sexes of the apprehended migrants.

Migrants who are interdicted at sea or apprehended ashore will not be allowed to stay in the U.S. or any of its territories, the Coast Guard said.  

“Furthermore, anyone who arrives unlawfully may be declared ineligible for legal immigration parole options and be repatriated to their country of origin or returned to the country from where the voyage departed from,” the statement reads. 

The Coast Guard and the Homeland Security Task Force guards air, land and sea assets in the Florida Straits, the Windward Passage, the Mona Passage and the Caribbean Sea, the Coast Guard said. 

Since Oct. 1 through April 30, the Coast Guard has intercepted 35 different groups of migrants in the Mona Passage and waters near Puerto Rico.

The groups consisted of 1,199 non-U.S. citizens, 1,141 of which were from the Dominican Republic, 57 from Haiti, and one from Venezuela.

Last month, a Carnival cruise ship rescued 27 Cuban nationals found adrift and signaling for help roughly 20 miles west of Cuba.

Meanwhile, in March, law enforcement apprehended two dozen illegal migrants – including women and children – off the coast of Florida in a large fishing boat.

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