Six Men Arrested as Stowaways on Barge in San Juan
Federal authorities have confirmed the arrest of six individuals who jumped off a barge in San Juan on Tuesday. The Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) revealed that the detainees are all men from the Dominican Republic who were traveling as “stowaways” aboard the “Charlotte Bridge” barge that had arrived from Jacksonville, Florida.
CBP agents, along with officers from the Coast Guard and the San Juan Municipal Police, carried out a search operation after the barge docked at the Luis Ayala Colón dock in Puerto Nuevo, San Juan. Following an exhaustive search, they managed to apprehend the six stowaways after several hours, according to a CBP press release.
Rebecca González, the director of the Homeland Security Investigations Office (HSI), stated that three of the arrested individuals will face criminal prosecution due to their past criminal records, while the remaining individuals will be repatriated to the Dominican Republic.
Commenting on the incident, González emphasized the dangers associated with engaging in such illegal activities at sea, which not only jeopardize the lives of stowaways but also put law enforcement officers at risk.
This is not the first incident of its kind. On March 14, 19 unauthorized immigrants were detained after a barge entered San Juan Bay. Of those, 17 had jumped from the Brooklyn Bridge barge that had set sail from Jacksonville, Florida.
CBP spokesperson Jeffrey Quiñones noted that stowaways boarding vessels passing near the Dominican Republic is a recurring pattern. “They illegally board a vessel that passes near the Dominican Republic until reaching Puerto Rico. It is a very dangerous operation. past cases have seen stowaways found in inhospitable areas of boats, some appearing dead and others suffering from dehydration and lacerations,” he warned.
Coast Guard spokesman Ricardo Castrodad explained that a stowaway is an individual who is not part of a barge’s crew but attempts to bypass security and hide onboard to gain access to the territory of the United States.
Castrodad further revealed that undocumented trafficking organizations frequently use this method to facilitate the illegal entry of people into Puerto Rico. The barge in question passed 35 nautical miles off the coast of the Dominican Republic before reaching Puerto Rico.
Roberto Vaquero, CBP’s director of field operations for Puerto Rico, highlighted that incidents like these demonstrate the lengths individuals are willing to go and the personal risks they are prepared to take to enter the United States illegally.
Efforts to tackle and prevent such incidents continue, with federal authorities working closely with law enforcement agencies to ensure the safety of individuals involved and maintain border security.