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COAST GUARD: ‘Constant Threat’ From Illegal Migrants To Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands

SAN JUAN — The U.S. Coast Guard reported Monday there has been a sharp increase of interdictions from the previous year, as more migrants attempt to get to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

Rear Adm. Peter Brown,, Coast Guard 7th District commander, said there is a “constant threat.”

During the last three days, Coast Guard crews have intercepted 66 migrants in 72 hours, mostly from the Dominican Republic, near Puerto Rico. 

The U.S. Coast Guard has intercepted 66 migrants in the last 72 hours during five separate busts in the waters near Puerto Rico.

Federal aircraft and vessels rounded up the migrants, who were primarily on boats from the Dominican Republic.

Three of them were riding with a Mexican migrant when they were caught roughly four nautical miles off Manatí, Puerto Rico. Investigators say the Mexican national has possible gang affiliations.

Since Oct. 1, more than 700 migrants have been stopped while attempting to enter Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands illegally by water, according to federal officials.

“The U.S. Coast Guard has interdicted approximately 383 migrants attempting to illegally enter Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands since Oct. 1, compared to 128 migrants interdicted during the same time period in the year prior,” the Coast Guard said in a statement. “This represents approximately a 200 percent increase of interdictions from the previous year for the Coast Guard.”

The Coast Guard has seized more than 15,300 pounds of illegal drugs bound for Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands since Oct. 1.

“These recent migrant and drug interdiction cases, though smaller than what we see at our land borders, are a reminder of the constant threat toward the American citizens of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands,” Brown said.

When migrants are taken into custody, federal authorities say they are given food and water, along with basic medical care. Afterward, they may be sent back to their countries or places of departure. 

If they have criminal histories with possible connections to smuggling operations, they are turned over to law enforcement for federal prosecution.

According to the Coast Guard, the crews are also intercepting smugglers who are trafficking drugs, including cocaine and fentanyl.

On Facebook, the comments online to the V.I. Free Press’ social media platform was fast and furious.

“Good Lord out islands cant take any more people we are filled up to the rim with illegals,” Kenneth Moolenaar said.

Another reader echoed Moolenaar’s sentiments.

“Maybe we can build a wall,” Stone Benjamin said from St. Thomas.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy has been reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Caribbean region since 1989. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is originally from Detroit, Michigan.

1 Comment

  1. gary pokorny
    January 15, 2019 at 10:11 AM — Reply

    Interesting read. First thing I thought was all the drugs stopped from coming in – captured by air and sea. If there was a land-based “wall” involved no doubt there would be protesters. I guess it is okay to enforce the border but not just with a wall…… I can hear it now, “Mr. President….tear down that wall”

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