IMPERIAL BEACH, Calif – U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) agents assigned to the Imperial Beach Station continue to see migrants illegally enter the United States by swimming through the Pacific Ocean.
During the month of May, there have been five recorded events in which migrants swam across the maritime boundary line. During these events, seven migrants were apprehended while nine managed to swim back to Mexico before agents could apprehend them.
The first of these took place on May 3, when a scope operator observed five swimmers heading north along the Imperial Beach coastline. The U.S. Coast Guard responded to the area, but when the swimmers realized they had been spotted, they all turned around and swam back into Mexican waters.
On May 21, a scope operator observed a subject swim across the U.S./Mexico maritime boundary line, approximately one mile offshore. Border Patrol agents searched for, encountered, and apprehended the swimmer.
Then, on May 24, a Remote Video Surveillance System operator detected two swimmers crossing the maritime boundary line, approximately 200 yards off the coast. The U.S. Coast Guard responded and later reported the swimmers had managed to swim back south across the maritime boundary line.
Finally, on May 25, two separate smuggling attempts were made in the hours before sunrise. The first was a group of six swimmers detected crossing the maritime boundary line. A few hours after detection, the group was spotted on the shore, approximately three miles north of the border. Agents responded and were able to apprehend four of the six swimmers, with the other two being able to turn back south into Mexico. The second event of the morning occurred when camera operators from the Joint Harbor Operations Center (JHOC) reported two swimmers exiting the water and walking northbound on the beach approximately two miles north of the border. A USBP all-terrain vehicle unit responded and apprehended the two subjects who were found hiding in the rocks by the beach.
The U.S. Border Patrol, in collaboration with other federal, state, and local law-enforcement agencies, coordinate their operations through the Regional Coordinating Mechanism (ReCoM) to address transnational maritime threats along the Southern California coast. The ReCoM’s mission is to increase homeland security by eliminating transnational crime along the coast. The JHOC, in San Diego, is the tactical command center for the ReCoM.
All the apprehended subjects were taken to the Imperial Beach Border Patrol Station for processing. Fortunately, none of the subjects suffered any injuries.
Historically, swimming is a very dangerous method of illegally entering the United States. Smugglers put the lives of migrants in danger by exposing them to the harsh forces and dangers of the ocean. Migrants usually swim during the cover of night due to their false assumption that they can avoid detection. At night, the temperature along the coast drops dramatically and the water can become frigid and very rough. The coast near the border is also known for its dangerous rip currents which are hard to detect and can rapidly pull people away from shore and out to sea. Frequently, migrants are lied to by smugglers and told the journey will be short and easy, but the smugglers do not consider the migrants physical condition or swimming abilities.
The USBP urges migrants to not expose themselves or their family members to the dangers of the ocean. “Swimming across the maritime boundary line is extremely dangerous for even the most experienced swimmers,” said San Diego Sector Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke. “Smugglers do not care about the lives they endanger; and continue to send migrants who are ill-equipped to deal with the frigid and dangerous waters of the Pacific Ocean.”
If you have information about maritime smuggling or suspicious activity along the coast of California, please contact JHOC at 1-800-854-9834.