38 arrested as border officers target maritime smuggling in San Diego

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U.S. border officers and the San Diego ReCoM arrested 39 people in a span of five days this month in an operation the agencies say targeted maritime smuggling near local beaches. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

SAN DIEGO – U.S. border officers and the San Diego ReCoM arrested 38 people in a span of five days this month in an operation the agencies say targeted maritime smuggling near local beaches.

The largest of the arrests came around midnight Monday when CBP Air and Marine Operations agents identified a vessel traveling north from the U.S.-Mexico maritime boundary, a CBP spokesman said in an emailed news release. They found the vessel carrying 20 men — all identified as undocumented immigrants from Mexico — as well as eight 25-gallon fuel containers.

Two of the men onboard were determined to be boat captains and now are facing criminal charges, the spokesman said.

The other two incidents on June 13 and 14 resulted in the arrests of seven and 11 people, respectively. In the June 14 incident, nine Mexican nationals and two U.S. citizens were detained after agents witnessed the undocumented immigrants traveling en route to a vehicle after docking near Quivira Basin. That vehicle later was seized by border officers.

Vessels were seized by regional border agencies in all three incidents, a spokesman said.

In a statement, Chief Patrol Agent Aaron M. Heitke said the unified effort between agencies including the U.S. Border Patrol’s San Diego Sector, the U.S. Coast Guard and Homeland Security Investigations, among others, “increases border security in the maritime environment from unknown threats.”

“As a constant reminder to the public, if you see something out of the ordinary near the coast, don’t hesitate to call authorities,” Heitke said. “These vessels are dangerously overloaded and unsafe in the ever changing ocean conditions. Smugglers exploit migrants and put lives in significant danger for their own profit.”

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