12 Migrants Rescued from Sinking Smuggling Boat Off California Coast

U.S. Customs and Border Protection SAFEBoat. (Photo: U.S. Custom and Border Protection)
File Photo: U.S. Custom and Border Protection

An Air and Marine Operations (AMO) crew from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) rescued a group of 12 people from a sinking boat off the coast of California Monday. The boat crew determined the 12 people on board were all Mexican nationals illegally present in the U.S.

In the early morning hours of September 9, an AMO received notification through the Joint Harbor Operations Center that a boat near the Cabrillo National Monument in Point Loma, California, reported taking on water with a large number of people on board. The AMO crew responded on a 41-foot SAFEBoat Coastal Interceptor Vessel and located the distressed 24-foot Monterey cuddy cabin boat at about 3:45 a.m., according to information provided by San Diego Sector CBP officials.

As the crew approached the partially disabled vessel, crewmembers observed one person in the water hanging on to the bow while 11 other passengers were on the boat wearing life jackets. The person in the water managed to climb back into the stranded boat, officials reported.

At this point, high surf conditions prevented the safe removal of the people from the boat. A crew from the San Diego Lifeguards arrived and pulled the boat away from the surf zone. The AMO crew then connected the disabled boat to their stern and towed it to Ballast Point where they removed and secured the passengers from the boat.

Border Patrol agents from the Coastal Border Enforcement Team met the CBP crew in Ballast Point and conducted an immigration interview. The agents determined that all 12 people on the boat were Mexican nationals illegally present in the U.S. The agents place the migrants under arrest and transported them to the station for evaluation, a background investigation, and processing for removal.

“Maritime smuggling is very common in our area, however, it is also very dangerous,” San Diego Director of Air and Marine Operations Hunter Davis said in a written statement. “People should not risk their lives or their loved ones and place them in the hands of smugglers who place profit over human lives. Many times people are placed in unseaworthy vessels, on unpredictable seas with an unskilled maritime crew and without life jackets, or if in life jackets, these can be old and worn and may not keep one afloat.”

Officials reported no injuries related to this incident.

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