The Department of Homeland Security has been working for over a year on improvements in law enforcement and border control in Puerto Rico in a project known as “Operation Caribbean Resilience.” On Thursday, a report came from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Acting Director John Sandweg, Puerto Rican U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodriguez-Velez, and Puerto Rico Police Department Superintendent Hector Pesquera.
Puerto Rico has in recent years seen homicide rates six times higher than those in any state. It is generally understood that this extreme level of violent crime in Puerto Rico has been impacted by the movement of the drug trade from the well-guarded Mexico-U.S. border to the less well-guarded Caribbean border. It has also been argued that the drug related violence in Puerto Rico would be less severe if Puerto Rico were a state.
The report listed a number of accomplishments:
- The arrest of more than 320 criminals
- Seizure of more than 170 firearms
- Seizure of 8,000 rounds of ammunition
- Recovery of over $155,000 in cash
- Seizure of drugs ranging from cocaine and heroin to prescription drugs
Many groups, including both Puerto Rican and U.S. mainland organizations, have been working together to decrease violent crime and drug trafficking in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean in general. More visible patrolling of the area has already shown results. Operation Caribbean Resilience will continue with further investigation and analysis in the months ahead.
Rep. Pedro Pierlusi was quoted in Caribbean Business as saying, “Now, it is critical that we sustain and build upon the gains we have made, and that other federal agencies — like the Department of Justice — step up their own efforts.” Pierluisi continued, ““Puerto Rico is a U.S. jurisdiction and Puerto Ricans are American citizens. The federal government is primarily responsible for securing Puerto Rico’s maritime border [and] plays a key role in disrupting criminal activity within Puerto Rico’s borders.”
This criminal activity has also spilled over from Puerto Rico’s borders to other places throughout the United States, demonstrating once again that the implications of Puerto Rico’s territorial status are not limited to just Puerto Rico but impact all Americans.