SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — U.S. Customs and Border Protection unveiled two boats and a newly created marine unit that will work on the water off the Southern California coastline.
The two vessels, 45-foot Swift Boats, were not being used in Florida and it was decided to bring them to the San Diego Sector, where maritime smuggling events are on the rise.
Last year saw a 93 percent increase from 2019, and this year is on track to be even higher, CBP said.
“We have limited resources, now we’ll be out in the ocean, marinas and the harbor,” said San Diego Sector Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke. “We can actively patrol on water, we’ll be talking to fishermen, local boaters and ask what they’re seeing.”
Heitke says they’ll be able to focus on areas where they are seeing more landings.
When asked if Title 42, which keeps asylum seekers south of the border, was forcing more migrants into boats as a way to enter the United States, Heitke said it wasn’t the case.
“The individuals that are coming through maritime environment try to get away, they are not claiming asylum … it’s not connected to this,” he said.
Heitke added that most migrants or their families can’t afford to pay the going rate for a boat ride.
“On land, we see on average of $5,000 to $8,000 per person; in ocean environment, it’s $12,000 to $20,000. Very few actually have that kind of money available to pay for this.”
Heitke stated the boats and their crews will work with other federal and local agencies and will be on patrol as much as possible.
“They all have the necessary enforcement equipment on them to operate on our environment.”
The boats and the agents will also carry lifesaving equipment in case migrants go into the water or have or need other assistance.