Another Human-Smuggling Boat Found

Leslie Berestein, Union-Tribune (San Diego), November 8, 2007

The discovery of a dilapidated 20-foot pleasure boat on a Del Mar beach early yesterday is just the latest instance of a suspected human-smuggling boat turning up abandoned along the county’s coastline.

ICE agents and Coast Guard officials talked with contractors about how to recover a small vessel discovered abandoned yesterday on a Del Mar beach.

During the past six months, between 10 and 15 beat-up watercraft have been found dumped along the coast between Imperial Beach and Del Mar, immigration officials said.

“What we are seeing now is a new tactic that is being used, which is basically to get these old boats for cheap somehow, and then abandon them as quickly as possible,” said Lauren Mack, a spokeswoman with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, in San Diego. “It’s no loss to the organization.”

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In September, a 24-foot boat washed ashore at La Jolla’s Wipeout Beach, south of the lifeguard tower at Children’s Pool. A homeless woman who had been sleeping nearby told lifeguards she had seen about 10 people come out of the water and run away. She said they had been wearing black.

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The discovery of these suspected smuggling boats lately is not surprising in that border enforcement has squeezed many of the land routes used, said Wayne Cornelius, director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at the University of California San Diego.

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The Border Patrol is reporting 20 percent fewer illegal border-crossing apprehensions were made along the southern border this fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, than the previous year. However, arrests in the San Diego sector are up 7 percent. According to the agency, the San Diego sector is the only stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border that did not witness a drop in apprehensions during the past year.

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