City News Service, Sept. 23, 2009
Four people were hospitalized today for injuries they suffered when federal agents opened fire on three crowded vans to prevent them from jumping the U.S.-Mexico border at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, authorities said.
Three agents–two with Customs and Border Protection and one with Immigration and Customs Enforcement–fired at one of the van drivers as he drove toward them at the inspection station in southern San Diego about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to a San Diego police statement.
The van then crashed into a truck, police said.
The driver of the van, a 31-year-old man, and a passenger, a 42-year-old man, suffered gunshot wounds while a 37-year-old man who had been a passenger in the vehicle suffered cuts and a head injury, police said. A 30-year-old man who was a passenger in the truck was taken to a hospital complaining of pain.
Two of the van drivers were arrested, but the third fled back into Mexico, according to the police statement, which said that 74 undocumented immigrants were detained by federal agents.
The shooting occurred when the three vans entered the same line at the border crossing and went through together before their drivers tried to find open lanes leading to Interstate 5 or Interstate 805, police said.
The vans ended up stuck in traffic, and the drivers of two of them backed up to find escape, police said. They then went at high speed east to west through a post-primary inspection area, where the three federal agents opened fire on one of the vans’ drivers, police said.
U.S. authorities closed the world’s busiest land border crossing for several hours on Tuesday after suspected Mexican human traffickers tried to enter with illegal immigrants, U.S. officials said.
U.S. agents fired at three vans packed with about 70 illegal immigrants that tried to evade heavy security and cross into the United States, the officials said.
“The port is closed and will remain closed for several hours,” U.S. Customs and Border Patrol spokeswoman Angelica De Cima said after the incident at the congested San Ysidro crossing between the Mexican city of Tijuana and San Diego.
Mack said the border crossing partially reopened on Tuesday evening. A Mexican border hotline for motorists said seven lanes at the crossing were open.
Mexico’s violent drug gangs are increasingly moving into the lucrative people-smuggling business, but tight U.S. border security is forcing them to take bigger risks to get narcotics and illegal immigrants into the United States.
The brazen attempt was unprecedented at the heavily guarded crossing where helicopters circle overhead and armed agents with dogs keep watch at a series of staggered checkpoints.
All the illegal immigrants were arrested and taken into custody. The crossing, a major smuggling corridor for narcotics and illegal immigrants, was shut while police conducted the investigation.
Some 90 million people a year use the California-Mexico land border crossings, with almost half the traffic going through San Ysidro.
Angry drivers blared car horns as a huge traffic jam built up on the Mexican side while U.S. agents signaled them to turn around.
“I’ve never known the entire crossing to be closed before. We just didn’t believe the agents when they told us to turn around,” said a Mexican student who gave his name as Juan Carlos and who crosses the border almost daily.