Maritime smuggling of humans a growing problem in San Diego

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – On Oct. 25, 2019, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the San Diego Sector Border Patrol announced that they arrested 30 people during three maritime smuggling events within a 24-hour period.

The first event began at approximately 2 p.m., on Thursday afternoon, when a U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) cutter encountered a 19-foot pleasure-craft vessel that was broken down off the coast of San Diego.

When USCG officers boarded the vessel, they became suspicious of an illegal entry into the U.S. However, assessing the immediate situation, they had to move quickly. The vessel was taking on water and only four of the 10 passengers were wearing life vests.

Officers removed all passengers from the sinking vessel and transported them to a nearby USCG facility, where waiting Border Patrol agents took custody of the 10 people. USCG also towed the vessel to the same facility concurrently.

The group of 10 illegal immigrants included four Mexican national males, two Mexican national females, and four Chines national males. All admitted to entering the U.S. illegally. Three of these individuals face federal human-smuggling charges. CBP Air and Marine operations crews seized the vessel.

The second event began at approximately 12:15 a.m. Friday morning, when AMO agents spotted a suspicious vessel heading north near Trestles, Calif. Shortly after, the vessel, a panga-styled boat, landed on a beach near Santa Mateo Point. Thirteen people got off the boat and ran into a nearby community.

Border Patrol agents, already alerted by AMO, responded and quickly detained nine out of the 13 people. Six individuals were Chinese nationals, including one woman, and the remaining three were Mexican nationals. All nine were determined to be illegally present in the U.S.

The group was transported to a nearby Border Patrol station for processing. During routine questioning, one individual admitted to being the captain of the boat and faces federal human-smuggling charges. AMO crews seized the panga vessel.

The third event began at approximately 8 a.m. Friday morning, when the Joing Harbor Operation Center received information from a concerned citizen of a panga vessel dropping off individuals near a beach in La Jolla, Calif.

At approximately 9:15 a.m., USBP agents arrived and swiftly detained 11 subjects. Three individuals were Chinese nationals and the remaining eight were Mexican nationals. All 11 individuals were determined to be illegally present in the U.S. and were transported to a nearby Border Patrol station for processing.

USCG witnessed the La Jolla smuggling vessel traveling southbound towards Mexico and intercepted it. The captain of the panga was a Mexican national illegally present in the U.S. He was arrested on human-smuggling charges, and AMO crews seized his boat.

San Diego Sector has seen an increase in maritime smuggling events recently, which is attributed to the completion of the new 18-foot primary border wall and the ongoing construction of the 30-foot secondary wall.

If you have information about maritime smuggling or suspicious activity along the coast of California call 911 and you will be directed through the proper channels.

Categories: Local San Diego News, National & International News