The Journal Gazette
 
 
Tuesday, May 04, 2021 1:00 am

Deadly US capsizing shows smuggling risk to migrants

Associated Press

SAN DIEGO – A tractor-trailer slams into an SUV at an intersection on a remote California desert highway, killing 13 of 25 people crammed inside the late model Ford Expedition. A man dangles a toddler over a border wall near Santa Teresa, New Mexico, allowing her to fall on her face before he disappears into Mexico.

A 40-foot cabin cruiser overloaded with 32 people capsizes just off the San Diego coast, killing three and critically injuring another.

The incidents, which occurred over the last two months, show how smugglers put migrants at extraordinary peril for profits, whether by car, on foot or at sea.

The Coast Guard on Monday ended its search for survivors of the San Diego boat wreck, which happened on a bright Sunday morning near tidepools of Cabrillo National Monument, a popular spot for tourists and hikers.

The boat captain was in custody but Kelly Thornton, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in San Diego, declined to comment.

The SUV crash occurred in March and authorities said it was one of two vehicles crammed with occupants that entered the U.S. through an opening cut into the border wall. All were being smuggled. Those inside the other SUV were not involved in the accident and were picked up by the Border Patrol.

The toddler in the New Mexico incident was believed dropped by a smuggler and survived the fall.

Smuggling off the California coast has ebbed and flowed over the years but has long been a risky alternative for migrants to avoid heavily guarded land borders. Small boats with single- or twin-engines known as “pangas” enter from Mexico in the dead of night, sometimes charting hundreds of miles north. Recreational boats, like the one that capsized Sunday, try to mix in with fishing and pleasure vessels during the day.

The Border Patrol tallied 1,273 smuggling arrests on the California coast during the 12 months that ended Sept. 30, a 92% increase from a year earlier. Since Oct. 1, it has made 909 arrests.


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