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CBP Apprehends 17 Haitian Undocumented Migrants in Mona Island Near Puerto Rico

Release Date: 
January 16, 2014

Aguadilla, Puerto Rico - U.S. Customs and Border Protection Border Patrol and Air and Marine agents apprehended 17 Haitian nationals Wednesday that reached Mona Island Tuesday. 

Park Rangers from the Puerto Rico Department of Environmental and Natural Resources contacted Tuesday the Ramey Border Patrol Station regarding the landing of 16 males and 1 female that claimed to be Haitian nationals. 

A marine unit of the CBP Office of Air and Marine retrieved and transported the migrants from Mona to the town of Cabo Rojo where Border Patrol Agents assumed custody. 

The recent disappearance of several Haitian migrants and this incident prompted CBP to issue a cautionary message regarding the perils of making the voyage across the dangerous Mona Passage. 

“Crossing the Mona Passage is a treacherous voyage filled with many dangers that pose a huge risk to migrants,” said Ramiro Cerrillo, Chief Patrol Agent for the CBP Ramey Border Patrol Sector.  “We reiterate our message that potential migrants should not be fooled by false promises made by criminal organizations that organize such perilous journeys.”

On December 30, the body of a Haitian man was not ever found by authorities after a 13 Haitian men and 1 Cuban were forced to jump into the water by smugglers near las Carmelitas Beach in the southwestern shore of Mona Island.   Last week 2 individuals were reported missing after a group of 10 Haitian migrants were rescued by the US Coast Guard 4 miles west of Mona. 

The illegal maritime smuggling ventures arriving to Puerto Rico from the Dominican Republic are ordinarily transported in rustic, homemade wooden vessels commonly referred to as "yolas." A typical “yola” is an unsafe vessel, generally underpowered with a single outboard motor, and overloaded with a large number of passengers and without life vests. Every year CBP receives both confirmed and unconfirmed reports of aliens drowning while in transit to United States territory.

According to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, while smuggling by sea accounts only for a small portion of overall migrant smuggling around the world, the particular dangers of irregular travel at sea make it a priority for response; due to the reported fact that more deaths occur by sea.

Eighty miles separate the Dominican Republic from Puerto Rico. At the approximate mid-point lies the island of Mona, an uninhabited island that is a United States territory. Professional alien smugglers in the Dominican Republic strategically navigate to and use Mona Island as a drop off point for migrants who must then be recovered from Mona and transported to Puerto Rico by CBP or USCG air or marine assets.

The Caribbean Border Interagency Group (CBIG) was formally created to unify efforts of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Coast Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Puerto Rico, and Puerto Rico Police Joint Rapid Action Forces (FURA, for its Spanish acronym), in their common goal of securing the Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands borders against illegal migrant and drug smuggling. 

Last modified: 
February 9, 2017