SAN DIEGO (CNS) – U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers stopped a small wooden panga-type vessel, holding 21 people, 11 miles off the coast of Point Loma, it was announced Friday.
Two people on the boat suspected of smuggling the passengers will face federal charges, CPB spokeswoman Jackie Wasiluk said in a statement.
Shortly before midnight Thursday, a CBP enforcement aircraft (MEA) spotted the boat floating out at sea with no navigational lights. CPB officers also noticed multiple people on board the small craft, Wasiluk said.
MEA crew members noticed that the boat turned back toward the coastline. At 1 a.m., a CPB Air and Marine Operations boat intercepted the boat without incident, Wasiluk said.
U.S. Border Patrol agents determined that all 21 adults, 15 men and six women, were Mexican nationals with no legal status to enter the United States, Wasiluk added.
The Border Patrol’s San Diego Sector has documented 309 maritime smuggling events during fiscal year 2020. During this fiscal year, the sector has recorded 157 maritime smuggling events, according to CPB.
“These vessels are dangerously overloaded and unsafe in the ever- changing ocean conditions,” said Aaron M. Heitke, chief Border Patrol agent for San Diego. “Smugglers exploit migrants and put lives in significant danger for their own profit.”
Heitke also urged the public to call authorities if they see something out of the ordinary near the coast.
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