MIAMI – A group of 54 migrants who were rescued off the coast of St. John last week by the U.S. Coast Guard were repatriated to Haiti Tuesday.
Officials said a Caribbean Air & Marine Branch aircraft reported a suspicious boat just south of St. John last Wednesday.
A boat crew from the Coast Guard's station in San Juan, Puerto Rico, rescued the migrants and provided them with life jackets, food, water, shelter and basic medical attention.
Two suspected smugglers were taken into custody for further questioning.
"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 interagency partners, will seek to prosecute smugglers to the fullest extent of the law and promptly return illegal migrants to their respective county of origin."
Since Oct. 1, 2014, the Coast Guard estimates that 2,231 Haitians, 2,700 Cubans and 468 Dominicans have tried to illegally migrate to the U.S. via the sea.
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