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Customs and Border Protection reports increase in maritime smuggling off San Diego coast

Posted at 6:10 AM, Jul 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-19 09:10:41-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — More than 50 people were found off the San Diego coast in almost as many hours last week, by both Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operation agents and the Coast Guard.

CBP officials say the incidents happened over the course of three days.

The first incident occurred July 8 when the Coast Guard stopped a recreational boat nine miles offshore near Point Loma. Thirty-one people were found on board, all Mexican nationals and one Ecuadorian.

The second incident was just two days later when CBP Air and Marine agents found another boat. Two U.S. citizens are accused of attempting to smuggle three Mexican citizens.

The third incident happened the next day when agents found 18 people on board another boat, including an 11-year-old child with his mom.

All three incidents are suspected human smuggling cases. Maritime agents say the migrants oftentimes pay smugglers tens of thousands of dollars but are put in unsafe conditions, with overcrowded boats and at times with no life vest.

"It's freezing cold, they're wet, oftentimes they're dehydrated, oftentimes they don't have enough food, they're malnourished, they're hypothermic," says Evan Wagly, a supervisory marine interdiction agent with CBP.

According to CBP numbers, maritime smuggling is on the rise year to year. In fiscal year 2020, there were 309 smuggling events. In 2021, 389 incidents, and in 2022 so far, there have already been 370.