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CBP, FURA intercept vessel with 11 undocumented migrants

Release Date: 
May 5, 2015

AGUADILLA, Puerto Rico – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Border Patrol Agents and the Puerto Rico Police Department Joint Forces of Rapid Action (FURA, for its Spanish acronym)apprehended Sunday 11 undocumented migrants from the Dominican Republic before reaching the coast of the town of Rincon.

A Border Patrol Agent and a FURA Officer assist a migrant at sea.

A Border Patrol Agent and a FURA Officer assist a migrant at sea.

Juan A. De La Cruz-Tavarez, Juan M. Sheppard-Polanco and Estarlin Jelman-William will appear today before  US Magistrate Judge Bruce McGiverin for immigration related charges. 

On May 3rd, at approximately 3:45 AM, a Border Patrol Agent conducting surveillance with a remote system, detected a vessel approximately 5 miles west of the Rincon lighthouse. 

A FURA maritime asset, with a Border Patrol agent onboard, was contacted in order to investigate and interdict, reaching a  21 feet fiberglass vessel displaying the name "GIOVE", with 11 adult subjects (10 males/1 female) onboard, all claiming to be citizens of the Dominican Republic.

The eleven subjects were transferred to the US Coast Guard (USCG) Cutter Charles Sexton to perform a biometric review.  Among the group, 3 men were found to have prior immigration records and were transported to the Mayaguez Port for processing and eventual prosecution. 

The USCG cutter Charles Sexton repatriated the remaining 8 migrants to the Dominican Republic. 

Mr. DeLa Cruz-Tavares will face charges for attempted re-entry after a previous removal for an aggravated felony conviction.  Juan M. Sheppard Polanco and Estarlin Jelman William face misdemeanor charges.  

If convicted, Mr. De La Cruz- Tavares could be fined, imprisoned not more than 20 years or both.

All defendants are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law. 

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.

Eighty nautical 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. 

Migrant 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 Customs and Border Protection, 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