The U.S. Coast Guard has intercepted 66 migrants in the last 72 hours during five separate busts in the waters near Puerto Rico.
Federal aircraft and vessels rounded up the migrants, who were primarily on boats from the Dominican Republic.
Three of them were riding with a Mexican migrant when they were caught roughly four nautical miles off Manatí, Puerto Rico. Investigators say the Mexican national has possible gang affiliations.
Since Oct. 1, more than 700 migrants have been stopped while attempting to enter Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands illegally by water, according to federal officials.
"The U.S. Coast Guard has interdicted approximately 383 migrants attempting to illegally enter Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands since Oct. 1, compared to 128 migrants interdicted during the same time period in the year prior," the Coast Guard said in a statement. "This represents approximately a 200 percent increase of interdictions from the previous year for the Coast Guard."
The Coast Guard has seized more than 15,300 pounds of illegal drugs bound for Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands since Oct. 1.
“These recent migrant and drug interdiction cases, though smaller than what we see at our land borders, are a reminder of the constant threat toward the American citizens of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands,” Rear Adm. Peter Brown, Coast Guard 7th district commander, said in a statement.
When migrants are taken into custody, federal authorities say they are given food and water, along with basic medical care. Afterward, they may be sent back to their countries or places of departure.
If they have criminal histories with possible connections to smuggling operations, they are turned over to law enforcement for federal prosecution.
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