‘Don’t trust smugglers:’ Law enforcement issue strong warning to those entering country illegally

DOWNTOWN (KUSI) – The nation’s top law enforcement agencies issued a strong warning on Wednesday about the rise in deadly human smuggling operations in Southern California.

Acting U.S Attorney for the Southern District, Randy Grossman, alongside leaders of the U.S. Border Patrol, Coast Guard, Homeland Security and San Diego Fire-Rescue Lifeguard Division, pleaded with people to not trust human smugglers.

“We are appealing today to every person who is considering a desperate and perilous journey to the United States,” Grossman said. “Whether on foot, on a boat, or in a trunk of a car, don’t do it. Do not place your life in the hands of human smugglers. It’s not worth it.”

With four months left of the fiscal year, the number of deaths due to human smuggling operations has nearly surpassed all of fiscal year 2020.

“We have seen 25 migrant deaths in San Diego and Imperial Counties from October 2020 through April 2021,” Grossman said. “Compared to 29 in all of fiscal year 2020.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office promised to crack down and prosecute those carrying out these operations to every extent of the law. Grossman announced new charges Wednesday against two people accused of being responsible for bringing 16 people into the U.S. on a panga boat on May 20 off the shores of La Jolla. One person died, and eight others were injured.

“When you get on these vessels, there are no safety concerns. These people are dropping you in the water at times, so what we say, don’t do it,” said San Diego Fire-Rescue Lifeguard Division Chief James Gartland. “Don’t put your life in danger and don’t put our lives in danger,” he added.

Officials outlined the risk to young children being brought into the country illegally for profit and money. Pleading to not subject the most vulnerable to trauma and torture. It comes as Health and Human Services released to KUSI an update as of June 2, 2021, the number of migrant children staying at the San Diego Convention Center.

As of Wednesday, 732 minors were staying with the majority being teenage girls ages 13-17 years old. Some younger male siblings have been allowed to stay with most being 5-12 years old. Since operations at the temporary emergency shelter began, 1,653 children have been reunited with family members.

KUSI’s Hunter Sowards live report from Good Evening San Diego is below:

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