IMPERIAL BEACH, Calif.—U.S. Border Patrol agents (BPAs), working in coordination with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) law enforcement partners, arrested 13 people Sunday morning who had entered the U.S. illegally by panga boat and did so dangerously under the cover of darkness.
At approximately 2:30 a.m., BPAs reported a sighting of a boat coming in from Mexico with several people on board. Several agents in the area responded, some arriving as the panga landed near Seacoast Drive in Imperial Beach, CA.
A total of 13 people were intercepted, which included the boat captain, a co-pilot, and 11 passengers. Upon questioning, all 13 admitted they were Mexican nationals illegally present in the U.S. The 10 men and three women—ranging in ages 23 through 45—were arrested and taken to a nearby BPA station for processing.
The captain and co-pilot are in DHS custody and face human smuggling charges. The vessel was seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Air and Marine Operations.
Sunday’s human-smuggling event was the second that morning. Two hours prior, BPAs intercepted a human smuggling operation off the coast of La Jolla, Calif. After being told to swim to shore by their smugglers, one man was found deceased and one was suffering from hypothermia. The U.S. Coast Guard assisted in rescue efforts and Homeland Security Investigations is reviewing the fatal maritime event.
San Diego Sector Chief Patrol Agent Rodney Scott stated, “Combating human smuggling at sea is a top priority for CBP and its law enforcement partners. These smugglers put people into life-threatening situations and the repercussions can be fatal, as in this instance.”
The partners in the weekend maritime operations include members of the Regional Coordinating Mechanism, which is comprised of the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Air and Marine Operations, Office of Field Operations, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations, and state and local law-enforcement partners who operate in Southern California.
If you have information about maritime smuggling or suspicious activity along the coast of California, please contact the Joint Harbor Operations Center at 1-800-854-9834 or 911.