Nearly two dozen people were arrested Tuesday during a foiled human smuggling attempt in North County, according to the U.S. Border Patrol.
At about 3 a.m. Tuesday, Border Patrol agents saw a suspicious vessel off the coast of Del Mar. As the boat approached the shore, federal agents saw a group of people in life jackets running toward three cars near Camino Del Mar.
One car yielded to the authorities while the other two vehicles took off at a “high rate of speed,” according to USBP. The vehicle that stopped for the agents was a 2003 Mazda minivan that was being driven by a U.S. citizen, authorities said. His passengers included three men and five males, one of who was a minor.
All of the passengers were identified as Mexican nationals who were not in the U.S. lawfully. The driver and his eight passengers were arrested and taken to a nearby Border Patrol station.
Meanwhile, agents pursued the two other vehicles that had taken off and followed them to a hotel in Carlsbad. Both drivers were determined to be U.S. citizens and between the two vehicles were eight passengers who were Mexican nationals. None of the passengers were determined to be in the U.S. lawfully, according to the agency.
The two additional drivers and their eight passengers were arrested and taken into custody.
USBP said while agents went after the three vehicles, other Border Patrol agents coordinated with the U.S. Coast Guard to locate and intercept the panga that had dropped off the 16 Mexican nationals. The vessel was trying to return to Mexico when U.S. authorities thwarted its escape.
The two men onboard, who were determined to be from Mexico the panga were also arrested and taken into custody.
In total, three U.S. citizens and 18 Mexican nationals were arrested in the human smuggling attempt.
Five defendants face charges of human smuggling and one boat passenger will face charges for re-entry after prior removal. The remaining individuals were processed for deportation.