Migrant vessels as seen through the cameras of Dash 8 aircraft. The infrared camera senses heat differentials, which makes the heads of the passengers particularly visible. The gray stain on the water in one of the images represents a capsize. Photographs courtesy of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Once a migrant vessel is located, a call goes out on a Caribbean Border Interagency Group (CBIG) network and available resources respond. A yola is sometimes detained by other law-enforcement boats until a Coast Guard cutter arrives. The photograph with the yola is courtesy of U. S. Customs and Border Protection.

This shaky video clip, filmed from a helicopter, shows the arrival of a cutter and an aircraft. Courtesy of U. S. Customs and Border Protection.

Upon arrival to the scene the Coast Guard cutter launches its small boat, which approaches the yola, assesses the situation for medical emergencies, and distributes life vests. Helicopters sometimes provide air support. Photographs courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard.

The passengers are transferred in groups from the yola to the cutter. Photographs courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard. The night-transfer image is by John Gaffney.

Once aboard the cutter, passengers are frisked for weapons and contraband. Food, water, and basic medical attention are provided, passengers are assigned a numbered wristband for identification, and a brief boarding interview is done. Biometric data (index fingerprints and a photograph) are collected from each passenger using a hand-held device, and encrypted biometric files are transmitted electronically as emails, via satellite, from the cutter to US-VISIT on shore, where the files are run through the IDENT database to check for immigration or criminal records. Photographs courtesy of US. Coast Guard. The water-distribution image is by Krystyna A. Hannum. The food-distribution and medical-care (for acute hypothermia) images are by John Gaffney.

The empty yola is inspected for evidence and is then destroyed, usually by burning, as a hazard to navigation. Photographs courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard. The burning yola image is by John Gaffney; the image with “Policía” is by Krystyna A. Hannum.

The boarded passengers wait while the biometrics are processed and decisions are made regarding possible prosecutions. Passengers who face charges are taken ashore by Border Patrol; the others are repatriated to La Romana in the Dominican Republic. When there are no delays, the process takes twenty-four to thirty six hours. Photographs courtesy of U. S. Coast Guard. The image with migrants under blankets is by John Gaffney.

In La Romana, the Coast Guard transfers custody of the migrants to the Dominican navy. The migrants are taken by bus to Santo Domingo for processing and most are released shortly after. In accordance with the 2003 bilateral migration agreement between the United States and the Dominican Republic, migrants may not be prosecuted for leaving their country illegally. Photographs courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard.