The Coast Guard has repatriated 14 migrants to authorities in the Dominican Republic, the Coast Guard announced Tuesday.
In a written statement emailed to Navy Times, Coast Guard officials said that the cutter Heriberto Hernandez transferred a dozen Dominicans and two Haitians to a Dominican navy vessel on Sunday, three days after they were interdicted in a cramped boat near Puerto Rico’s Mona Island.
“The outstanding work by the Coast Guard and our inter-agency partners focused on humanitarian efforts and preventing loss of life at sea,” said Lt. Cmdr. Rafael Battle, the commanding officer of Heriberto Hernandez.
“The Mona Passage is a volatile waterway with heavy seas. Transiting on dangerously overloaded and unseaworthy vessels poses large risk to anyone making the journey from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico. Fortunately, we discovered and saved 16 people before they encountered other potential dangers.”
Coast Guard officials said an HC-144 Ocean Sentry maritime patrol aircraft spotted the “grossly overloaded” 25-foot vessel sailing without navigational lights about 10 nautical miles north of Mona Island.
Watchstanders in San Juan then ordered the Heriberto Hernandez to retrieve the 16 migrants and provide them with food, water and medical care.
They were assisted by a Customs and Border Protection marine unit, according to the Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard reported that two Dominican men were not repatriated because they face potential federal criminal immigration charges in Puerto Rico for attempted illegal re-entry into the United States.
The Heriberto Hernandez is homeported in San Juan.
Prine came to Navy Times after stints at the San Diego Union-Tribune and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors and the Combat Infantryman Badge.