The Biden administration’s tenure has been marked by a major surge in illegal immigration into Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to federal data.

Border Patrol encounters of illegal migrants in the Ramey Sector surpassed 1,600 in both fiscal years 2023 and 2022, compared to 670 in fiscal year 2021 and 356 in fiscal year 2020, according to the data. Two federal law enforcement officials familiar with the region, who requested anonymity because they’re not authorized to speak publicly, told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the region lacks manpower to handle the crossings.

“Historically, migrants that make it into Puerto Rico, they either try to blend in with the population because the Border Patrol footprint is very small there with just one station and find jobs in agriculture or construction or, they try to fly out of Puerto Rico into the mainland U.S. since it’s a domestic flight and passports are not required. Fake IDs are not difficult to obtain,” one of the officials, who is a Border Patrol agent, told the DCNF.

“It’s a lot of Haitians, but the demographics are very different with Africans, Central Americans, Chinese,” the second official said.

Migrants enter Puerto Rico illegally by often taking small, overcrowded vessels. If caught by federal authorities, they are processed, transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and flown to Miami for “removal proceedings,” often allowing them to present their case to an immigration judge, a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) spokesperson told the DCNF.

CBP officers intercepted a group of 63 migrants on Dec. 1 from the Dominican Republic and Haiti attempting entry into Puerto Rico by sea on a makeshift vessel made of rustic wood, the agency said at the time. Five members of the group had previously been deported for felony convictions for aggravated felonies such as manslaughter, assault, and narcotics trafficking.

“Illegally migrating to the United States in unsafe vessels places migrants in extreme peril, either to an unforgiving sea, or at the hands of uncaring smugglers who recklessly endanger migrant lives for financial gain. CBP is committed to working alongside our federal, state and local law enforcement partners in a whole-of-government effort to address any potential increases in irregular maritime migration or border security threats in the Caribbean region,” the CBP spokesperson said.

Border Patrol arrested four U.S. citizens in September for allegedly transporting a group of more than 50 migrants that landed on the island without detection, according to CBP. Agents were able to locate and capture 35 migrants during the search.

Jennie Taer on December 23, 2023

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