Mother, daughter found hidden in compartment at border

SAN DIEGO — U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers found a mother and daughter hidden in the convertible compartment of a sports car at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry Tuesday.

Officers made the discovery as a 27-year-old man — an American citizen — tried to pass through the port of entry in a Nissan 350Z around 1:40 a.m., CBP spokeswoman Shalene Thomas said.

A detector dog alerted officers to the convertible compartment while the driver was in line to cross the border, and the car was pulled aside for a more in-depth inspection, Thomas said.

Officers determined that two people appeared to be inside the compartment. They found that the compartment’s electronic opener was disabled, and were unsuccessful in attempting to remove the compartment’s hinges due to safety concerns for the people inside, Thomas said.

CBP called the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department for assistance, and firefighters extracted a 10-year-old girl and her 30-year-old mother, both citizens of Mexico, from the compartment, Thomas said.

Paramedics determined the pair did not sustain any injuries, she said. The mother and child were taken to an undisclosed location for processing, where officers confirmed they had no legal standing to enter the U.S., according to Thomas.

“CBP placed an immigration hold on the concealed persons to initiate removal from the United States at the conclusion of criminal proceedings,” she said.

Officers arrested the driver, who was to be booked into the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center in San Diego, Thomas said. His name was not released.

“This smuggling attempt could have had a tragic end and I am pleased with the swift response of the officers at the port that recognized the dangers and called San Diego Fire and Rescue to aide in freeing the trapped family,” Otay Mesa Port of Entry Director Rosa Hernandez said. “I thank San Diego Fire and Rescue for their support and assistance with this case.”