A six-hour nighttime maritime search operation led to the apprehension of 15 migrants on a boat off the coast of California. The search involved a coordinated effort between CBP’s Air and Marine Operations aircrews and water-based rescue vessels.
During the night of September 9, an Air and Marine Operations (AMO) aircrew situated on a multi-role enforcement aircraft spotted a panga leaving Mexico and heading to the United States, according to information obtained from U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials. The agents onboard the aircraft for several hours before handing it off to a second AMO multi-role enforcement aircraft.
The two aircraft tracked the panga for nearly six hours as it made its way to the coast of California near San Diego.
The second search aircraft sent coordinates to a crew on an interdiction vessel and gave them vectors to the panga.
At about 3:20 a.m. on September 10, the boat crew intercepted the human smuggling boat. The operator of the boat followed instructions to stop and agents boarded the vessel where they found 15 people on board.
The interceptor boat crew took the migrants to dock where they turned them over to U.S. Border Patrol agents from the San Diego Sector. The agents conducted immigration interviews and identified the 15 migrants as being four women and 11 men. The women ranged in age from 19-23 while the men ranged from 22-45. Officials identified all as being Mexican nationals.
The CBP marine crew seized the 27-foot panga.
Agents held one of the men suspected of being the boat driver and human smuggler. He will likely face federal charges for alien smuggling. The remaining migrants were processed for expulsion under Title 42 coronavirus protection policies.
“The coordination here was key,” said Tim Sutherland, Director of Operations for the San Diego Air and Marine Branch of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine Operations. “We had three crews spread across two aircraft and a vessel working together for many, many hours before we were able to apprehend these individuals safely while they were still at sea.”