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Sport boat stopped in human smuggling incident off Mission Bay

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Posted at 4:27 PM, May 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-31 02:12:38-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Over a dozen individuals are being questioned by Customs and Border Protection after their boat reportedly entered the U.S. illegally on Sunday.

At around 12:45 p.m., a US Coast Guard spotted a suspicious vessel entering the Mission Bay Channel.

USCG crews were able to stop and board the 31’ sports boat. The vessel was returned to San Diego Lifeguard headquarters where its occupants were transferred to CBP custody.

There were no reports of injuries.

A spokesperson with the U.S. Border Patrol confirmed that the individuals were undocumented. The incident remains under investigation.

MORE: In-Depth: Why human smuggling by boat has surged

Authorities announced earlier this week they would increase patrols during the holiday weekend through June 1, covering sea, land, and air.

“Smugglers don’t adhere to boating safety standards. These are long and dangerous excursions, with overladen vessels traveling without navigational lights and no safety equipment,” said Brandon Tucker, Deputy Director of Air Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s, Air and Marine Operations, San Diego Air and Marine Branch.

“People need to understand that they are risking their lives in the hands of smugglers who value only the money they are paid," said Tucker.

In an ABC 10News In-Depth report and interview with Dr. Ev Meade, the director of the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego, Meade said a trip with a boat smuggler costs migrants about three times as much as a trip with a smuggler by land.

“We will hit a record this year for maritime apprehensions almost certainly,” said Meade.

“They're coming to work,” said Meade. “It's because the economies in their home country have been devastated by the pandemic and we've recovered faster than they have.”