Smuggling Attempt with 18 Migrants Halted Off California Coast, Say Feds

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Air and Marine Operations (AMO) agents patrolling off the coast of California in a multi-role enforcement aircraft on the night of June 24 spotted a panga running at sea with no lights. The agents picked up the boat on surveillance equipment as it departed Mexican waters, according to information obtained from San Diego Sector Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials.

The aircrew tracked the panga until handing it off to a second AMO aircraft, officials stated. Agents on board the aircraft directed two coastal interceptor watercraft to interdict the suspected human smuggling operation.

Approximately four hours later, the marine interdiction units encountered the suspected smugglers and boarded the panga about 35 miles office coast of San Diego. Those onboard the panga complied without incident, officials stated.

A search of the vessel revealed 18 people onboard — 16 men and two women. The agents transported all 18 to the docks and turned them over to awaiting Border Patrol agents.

The Border Patrol agents conducted an immigration interview and medical screening. The agents identified the 16 men and two women as Mexican nationals with no legal status to be in the United States, officials reported. They transported the party to the station for processing and a criminal background investigation.

Under Title 42 Coronavirus protection protocols put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the smuggled aliens will likely be returned to Mexico after clearing the medical screening and biometric background investigation.

AMO agents seized the 35-foot panga.

Officials did not say if they identified the alleged human smuggler.

“The crews aboard both aircraft were critical to the initial detection and continued tracking of the vessel,” Tim Sutherland, Director of Air and Marine Operations for CBP in San Diego, said in a written statement.

Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior news contributor for the Breitbart Texas-Border team. He is an original member of the Breitbart Texas team. Price is a regular panelist on Fox 26 Houston’s What’s Your Point? Sunday-morning talk show. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX and Facebook.