NewsTeam 10 Investigates


Numbers show an increase in maritime smuggling into US

Posted at 6:19 PM, May 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-03 21:19:11-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A boat that crashed on the rocks off the coast of Point Loma was being used to smuggle people into the United States.

According to the U.S. Border Patrol, three people on board died. It's the second deadly smuggling incident in almost as many months.

In March, 13 people died when a big rig in Imperial County broadsided an SUV carrying 25 people. A week before that, border agents say a driver collided with a border patrol vehicle in Jamul during a human smuggling attempt. In 2019, two people died after a car and semi-truck collided during a border patrol pursuit in Otay Mesa.

"Any sort of way of coming into the U.S. right now is absolutely dangerous," said Pedro Rios director of the American Friends Service Committee. "That's why we're pushing as much as possible for the U.S. government to do what it can to mitigate those dangers. One of the ways to do that is to change the policies that force people to migrate through these very dangerous routes."


According to a report by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, between fiscal years 2015 and 2019, there were nearly 1,500 known migrant deaths near the United States-Mexico border.

The report shows 66 deaths were water-related in 2019.

The report stated, "Reported migrant deaths are highest between July and September, which accounted for 55 percent of all reported migrant deaths in F.Y. 2019. The extreme temperatures during these months resulted in additional deaths from heat exposure. Heat exposure is the leading identified cause of migrant deaths along the Southwest Border."

At a press conference on Sunday, Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Jeff Stephenson said the smugglers don't care about the people they are exploiting.

"All they care about is lining their own pocket for profit."

According to information provided by the Border Patrol, the San Diego Sector documented a record 309 maritime smuggling events during the fiscal year 2020. This fiscal year to date, they've documents 157 maritime smuggling events.

Rios said the crash off Point Loma happened the same weekend law enforcement officials ramped up operations to disrupt maritime smuggling off the coast.

A press release on April 30 from U.S. Customs and Border Protection said, "From Friday, April 30 through Monday, May 3, federal law enforcement partners will dedicate extra resources to coastal patrols covering the land, air, and sea. San Diego residents will see an increase in various law enforcement and public safety agencies all along the San Diego coastline, including at beaches and marinas, in San Diego Bay, and out along the coast."

Rios said there's nothing new about maritime border crossings. He believes Border Patrol's enforcement operations push migrants away from urban centers and into dangerous crossing routes.

"Smugglers take an opportunistic approach at understanding what some of the dynamics are," Rios said. "They know that the border is closed, so they then will provide more access to people to try and find ways to come to the U.S. even when those ways mean people risking their lives. I think it's important to point out, while smugglers do have some fault in this, the U.S. government also for decades has been militarizing border communities, and that creates a very dangerous situation where people then are forced to find these dangerous routes to come into the U.S."

Officials with the Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to our request for a comment about Rios’s statements.