A July 4th holiday celebration was transformed into a distressing chain of events after federal officials boarded a yacht on Long Island and began checking papers.

Irish man David Quinn, a horse and carriage driver in Central Park, was enjoying the July 4th celebrations with his girlfriend Gaea Rich and her family abroad a yacht in Long Island Sound. 

The yacht is owned by Ms Rich’s uncle and is registered in the Carribbean nation of St.Vincent and the Grenadines. The foreign flag attracted the attention of federal officials. 

Immigration officials are permitted to board foreign flagged vessels anytime.  It is common for yacht owners to register their boats in foreign countries for tax purposes.

What began as a routine stop by law enforcement officials ended in two passengers identified as undocumented been taken away on a police boat by federal immigration officials. David Quinn and a Guatemalan man who had been hired for the day for catering purposes were both detained.

The incident began at about 1.30pm on July 4th when a boat operated by the Nassau County Police Department pulled alongside the yacht close to Oyster Bay. After inspecting the owners cruising license, officials asked all members to produce government issued identification.  When Quinn and the catering worker failed to produce ID they were taken below deck and interrogated. The officers soon established the two were undocumented.

Charles Rowe, a spokesperson for the Coast Guard  told the New York times  that maritime laws and their enforcement have tightened since 9/11. In the past several years, for example, the Coast Guard division on Staten Island — which patrols New York Harbor, the western half of Long Island Sound and the southern Hudson River — has stepped up its scrutiny of smaller foreign-flagged vessels.

Quinn now faces deportation in the coming months. He told the New York Times that he was hopeful he could find a way to stay in the United States. Quinn was held in the detention center in Elizabeth New Jersey before being released last Thursday after the intervention of father Brian Jordan, a Manhattan-based Franciscan priest who specializes in helping immigrants.