More than 100 Haitians and Dominicans landed on an uninhabited island off Puerto Rico’s western coast Tuesday, the latest group to attempt to reach the American territory, a gateway for undocumented immigrants to the United States.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesperson Jeffrey Quiñones told the Miami Herald that a boat dropped off the migrants at a tiny nature reserve called Isla de Mona and then took off. The migrants likely arrived early morning, he added, and are believed to have departed from the Dominican Republic.
The group of migrants includes at least 102 Haitians and two Dominicans, Quiñones said, and there were children on board. Several of the 63 female passengers traveling on board were pregnant. There were 41 male passengers.
The group walked towards a Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources outpost on Isla de Mona, which lacks basic infrastructure and a permanent population. The rangers are often the first to see undocumented migrants on the reserve. The island is a hot spot for human traffickers that bring migrants from nearby Hispaniola, the island Haiti and the Dominican Republic share, to Puerto Rican shores.
There is no evidence that anyone drowned during Tuesday’s drop-off, said Quiñones.
The mass drop-off follows an incident Sunday in which U.S. Border Patrol, Coast Guard and Puerto Rico Police maritime units rescued nine undocumented immigrants after a boat became stuck on massive rocks near the northwestern town of Aguadilla. The Coast Guard picked up two people from the water with a helicopter.
Another seven appeared to make it to shore on their own, said Coast Guard spokesperson Ricardo Castrodad. Sunday’s group appeared to include 12 Dominican men, as well as two men, a woman and a girl from Haiti, according to the agency. The agency then spent several more hours scouring for people in the water, but did not find anyone else.
“It is understood that due to the proximity of where the situation occurred, everyone came out of the water,” said Castrodad.
Puerto Rico has been the site of migrant tragedies at sea this year as more Haitians attempt to reach American territory, fleeing deteriorating conditions in their country. The U.S. Coast Guard in Miami has described the Haitian migration at sea as the largest since 2004.
Eleven Haitian women died in May when an illegal voyage capsized near another uninhabited island off Puerto Rico’s western coast called Desecheo. Passengers from the capsized boat are still believed to be missing. Another five Haitians died in July during a migrant drop of some 70 people turned deadly on Isla de Mona’s coasts when people were forced to swim to shore.
Castrodad said that even after Hurricane Fiona hit Puerto Rico last month, devastating many of its communities with mass flooding, there has still been migrant activity at sea. In the last government fiscal year, which runs from October through September, the agency had intercepted 88 boats near Puerto Rico and the Mona Passage between the American territory and Hispaniola. Most of the apprehended migrants were Dominican, 1,705, along with 444 Haitians.
Authorities are now working on taking the people currently stranded in the tiny nature reserve to mainland Puerto Rico for immigration processing, giving priority to pregnant women and children who embarked on the perilous journey.
© 2022 Miami Herald
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC