U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents thwarted a 15-person human smuggling attempt off the coast of San Diego Friday, which included a pregnant woman and a child.
The suspected driver of the vessel was identified and will face federal charges for the human smuggling attempt, CBP confirmed.
While patrolling in an aircraft off the coast, a CBP crew spotted a 23-foot cabin boat on Friday evening. The crew followed the suspicious vessel while directing a CBP boat, the Midnight Express, toward its location in the ocean.
Marine Operations also sent a Blackhawk helicopter to cover the incident. The cabin boat was tracked out at sea, about four miles south of Point Loma.
Agents aboard the Midnight Express soon caught up to the suspicious boat with lights and sirens blaring. They immediately saw a crowd of people overloading the vessel.
A U.S. Coast Guard vessel that was patrolling nearby responded to CBP's requests for backup. The Coast Guard crew helped transport 15 people on the vessel to the dock at Ballast Point.
CBP officials said there were eight men and six women, including a pregnant woman and a 15-year-old boy, aboard the ship.
All 15 individuals were Mexican nationals trying to enter the U.S. without legal status. CBP officials said nobody required immediate medical attention and they all appeared healthy.
"Crowding too many people on a small pleasure craft out at sea can be dangerous to those on board, as our agents know all too well," said Jeremy Thompson, Director of Marine Operations for CBP of San Diego, in a statement.
"People’s lives can be at risk when they are putting their trust in a smuggler who cares more about profit than people," added Thompson. "I’m glad we were able to work with our partners to safely bring these folks to shore."