In light of several recent deadly attempts to cross the U.S.-Mexico border into San Diego County, the U.S. Border Patrol and other agencies are ramping up patrols by land, sea and air over the busy Fourth of July weekend to intercept smuggling attempts, the agency said.
The USBP said agents would be stationed on land, in boats out on the water and in helicopters and airplanes to patrol the waters off the San Diego coastline.
Members of the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, asl well as several local law enforcement agencies, will also participate in the effort. Extra resources will be staffed through at least July 6, the U.S. Border Patrol said.
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Law enforcement agencies have already this fiscal year intercepted 222 attempts to get into the U.S. by sea, leading to more than 1,300 arrests, U.S. Border Patrol said. The number has already surpassed all the maritime arrests for fiscal year 2020.
At least 23 people have died in human smuggling attempts in border patrol's San Diego sector this fiscal year, the agency said.
Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman made a plea in June to those who were considering joining a smuggling attempt.
"We are appealing today to every person who is considering a desperate perilous journey to the United States -- whether in a boat or on foot or in the trunk of a car --don’t do it. Do not place your life in the hands of human smugglers. It's not worth it."
On May 2, a crash off the coast of Point Loma killed three migrants and injured dozens more. An affidavit said migrants paid between $15,000 and $18,500 to be smuggled into the U.S. The man accused of piloting the boat has been charged with two dozen counts in connection with the smuggling attempt.
Weeks later, one person died and eight others were hospitalized when several people jumped off a panga into rough waters off the coast of La Jolla. THe failed smuggling attempt was allegedly led by two men who were indicted in early June.
On land, human smuggling attempts have proven just as catastrophic. On March 2, dozens of migrants were brought to the U.S. near Calexico in an SUV that later crashed and killed 13 people. The man suspected of bringing the Mexican and Guatemalan nationals into the U.S. was charged in March.
There are perils even for those who attempt to cross on foot, according to USBP. On Sunday, a 46-year-old man who crossed the border near Otay Mountain in 104-degree heat was found in medical distress, USBP said. Agents hiked to the man and flew him to rescue.
There have been at least 27 rescues by border patrol in San Diego's sector this year, 12 of them heat related, USBP said. The USBP says they are also often called to deal with lost or abandoned migrants.
U.S. Attorney Grossman could not account for what's causing the increase but acknowledged smuggling is a profitable business with dangerous consequences. Law enforcement agencies were committed to ending it.