Migrant stops in the Caribbean soar, Coast Guard says

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A report by David Goodhue for The Miami Herald.

While they’re not being paid because of the partial government shutdown, members of the U.S. Coast Guard and agents with Customs and Border Protection are dealing with a 200 percent increase in the number of people caught at sea illegally migrating from their home countries, the Coast Guard announced this week.

Since last Thursday, the Coast Guard and Customs has stopped 66 people from the Dominican Republic at sea. On Monday, one “Mexican national with possible gang affiliations” was with a group of three people from the Dominican Republic stopped by the Coast Guard about four miles off Manati, Puerto Rico, according to an agency press release.

On Thursday, Jan. 10, a Customs Marine and Air and Marine Operations DH-8 plane spotted a “significantly overloaded” 25-foot boat 39 miles northeast of Cabo Engano in the Dominican Republic. The Coast Guard cutter Heriberto Hernandez took 25 people from the Dominican Republic aboard the ship, according to the release.

The next day, the cutter Dauntless stopped a 20-foot boat with 11 Dominicans about 35 miles northeast of Cabo Engano.

A Customs plane later in the day spotted a vessel 92 miles northwest of Desecheo, Puerto Rico, and the Coast Guard cutter Winslow Griesser picked up nine people from the Dominican Republic.

That same day, an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen spotted another migrant vessel about four miles east of Mona Island, Puerto Rico. The cutter Winslow Griesser picked up 17 people, all from the Dominican Republic.

The Coast Guard said more than 700 people have tried entering Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands since Oct. 1. The agency stopped about 383 people, up from around 128 people during the same period.

The Coast Guard and Customs Air and Marine Operations have also confiscated around 15,375 pounds of drugs, including cocaine, heroin and fentanyl.

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