The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Valiant repatriated 54 Haitian migrants to Cap Haitian, Haiti on Tuesday.
Last Wednesday, a Caribbean Air & Marine Branch aircraft reported a suspicious vessel sailing south of St. John, Virgin Islands.
A crew from the Coast Guard Station in San Juan, Puerto Rico arrived on scene and provided life jackets to the suspected migrants who were aboard a grossly overloaded vessel.
The Coast Guard Cutter Forward arrived on scene and safely rescued the 54 Haitian migrants before transferring them to the Coast Guard Cutter Valiant for repatriation. Two suspected smugglers were also taken into custody for further investigation.
"This smuggling attempt unnecessarily put lives at great risk, including the lives of young children," said Cmdr. Timothy Cronin, Coast Guard 7th District deputy chief of enforcement. "There have been no changes to U.S. immigration laws and the Coast Guard, along with its inter-agency partners, will seek to prosecute smugglers to the fullest extent of the law and promptly return illegal migrants to their respective county of origin."
Before being repatriated, the migrants receive food, water, shelter and basic medical attention.