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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Coast Guard bill beefed up by González Colón’s proposals clears US House committee

Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón

By The Star Staff

Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón managed to get two of her proposals included in House Resolution (HR) 7659, the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2024, approved Wednesday by the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

The resident commissioner-authored language in the bill seeks to study and identify the needs to improve maritime surveillance in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands to combat illicit activities in the region, as well as improve the publication of statistics on drug and migrant interdiction.

González Colón originally introduced and achieved the inclusion of both proposals as amendments last year, when the Committee passed the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2023. HR 7659 is an updated version of that measure and retains the language authored by the resident commissioner.

“In Puerto Rico, we know firsthand the importance and vital role that the men and women of the Coast Guard play. Therefore, it is imperative that they have the authority and resources to support and reinforce their critical missions,” González Colón said. “My amendments seek to conduct a study on the area of responsibility of the Coast Guard’s San Juan Sector, with jurisdiction over Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, in order to have a better understanding of illicit maritime activity in the region and to be able to identify additional resources to help combat it. They also seek to improve transparency by expanding the information that the Coast Guard is required to publish monthly on its website on maritime interdictions to include both the interception of migrants and drugs, as well as the geographic location of such interdictions.”

The language of the Coast Guard Sector Maritime Domain Awareness amendment for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands is found in section 205 of the measure. It would require the Coast Guard to submit a report to Congress outlining any gaps in maritime dominance and surveillance that must be in place in the Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands region to combat illicit activity, including drug and human trafficking. It must also identify technologies, assets and capabilities that would help the Coast Guard address or mitigate such gaps. The objective of the report would be to have a better understanding of illegal maritime activity in Puerto Rico’s waters and to obtain a comprehensive assessment of the needs of the San Juan Sector.

The amendment for the Public Availability of Information on Monthly Drug and Migrant Interdictions is found in section 206 of the bill. In 2022, Congress required the Coast Guard to post monthly statistics on migrant interdictions on its website. The amendment would extend that requirement to also publish monthly statistics on the quantity and type of drugs intercepted. It also requires the Coast Guard to publish information on the sectors and geographic areas where the operations took place. drug or migrant interdictions.

HR 7659 authorizes funding for Coast Guard operations for fiscal years 2025 and 2026. The measure seeks to support and strengthen the activities and missions of this military corps to safeguard the nation’s borders, facilitate maritime trade and guarantee port and maritime security, among other activities.

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