Three people were killed and nearly two dozen others were hospitalized after a boat that was believed to have been used to smuggle illegal immigrants into the United States capsized Sunday just off the San Diego coast, authorities said.
Local lifeguards, the US Coast Guard and other agencies responded around 10:30am following reports of an overturned vessel near the peninsula of Point Loma, according to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.
Three patients died at the scene.
At least 27 people were transported to hospitals, the department said in a statement.
Boats and aircraft were still searching around midday for other possible survivors in the water near the Cabrillo National Monument, the department said.
Three people were killed and nearly two dozen others were hospitalized after a boat capsized Sunday just off the San Diego coast
The image above shows debris washing ashore just off the coast of San Diego on Sunday
Since the vessel capsized in federal waters, the incident will be investigated by federal agencies.
According to reports, the vessel was a low-slung panga, a type of boat that is often used by smugglers to illegally transport migrants across the southern border.
The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department told The San Diego Union-Tribune that lifeguards pulled 25 victims from the water.
Five of them were in ‘CPR status’ – meaning they were having trouble breathing.
According to Customs and Border Protection, there were a record 309 ‘maritime smuggling events’ during fiscal year 2020.
So far during this fiscal year, CBP has recorded 157 smuggling attempts by sea.
Bystander video that went viral on social media shows debris wash ashore at Point Loma
Unidentified individuals above are seen near the area where the vessel capsized on Sunday morning
Local lifeguards, the US Coast Guard and other agencies responded around 10:30am following reports of an overturned vessel near the peninsula of Point Loma
The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department told The San Diego Union-Tribune that lifeguards pulled 25 victims from the water
On Friday, the CBP announced that federal law enforcement officials would beef up their maritime presence off the coast of San Diego to prevent attempts by smugglers to ferry undocumented migrants into the country.
‘We’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of maritime smuggling attempts recently,’ said Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke of the Border Patrol’ San Diego Sector.
‘All of these illegal crossings at sea are inherently dangerous, and we have seen too many turn from risky to tragic as smugglers sacrifice the safety of those on board for the sake of profits.’
CBP said that it boosted coastal patrols covering land, air, and sea in and around the Southern California region.
San Diego residents were warned that they would see an increased presence of law enforcement officials along the city’s beaches and marinas.
Locals were also informed that there would be a greater presence of helicopters in the air.
‘Safety of life at sea is our highest priority,’ said Captain Timothy Barelli, commander of the Coast Guard’s San Diego Sector.
‘Interdictions of suspected human smuggling at sea are as much rescues as they are law enforcement operations. There is grave risk of capsizing, hypothermia, and drowning.’
On Thursday, CBP Air and Marine Operations intercepted a small wooden ‘panga-type’ vessel carrying 21 people.
Authorities said the boat had no navigation lights as it sailed at night some 11 miles off the coast of Point Loma.
Border agents said that the 21 people on board – 15 men and six women – were Mexican nationals who were illegally trying to enter the US.
The boat that capsized off the San Diego coast on Sunday is a ‘panga’ type vessel frequently used by smugglers to transport undocumented migrants into the United States. The image above shows a panga vessel that was intercepted at sea by US authorities 11 miles off the San Diego coastline on Thursday. Twenty-one people were on board. Two smugglers were arrested
Federal authorities have beefed up their presence along the San Diego coastline. They have warned that the choppy waters and treacherous conditions at sea pose a considerable risk to those being smuggled in the boats. The image above shows the intercepted panga from Thursday
Two of those on board the vessel, whom authorities suspect to be the smugglers, will face federal trafficking charges.
‘As a constant reminder to the public, if you see something out of the ordinary near the coast, don’t hesitate to call authorities,’ said Heitke.
‘These vessels are dangerously overloaded and unsafe in the ever-changing ocean conditions.
‘Smugglers exploit migrants and put lives in significant danger for their own profit.’
On Friday, police in Texas raided a home that was used to smuggle scores of undocumented migrants and keep them in horrible conditions while demanding ransom from relatives.
More than 90 people were found in a house in southwestern Houston that investigators suspect was part of a human smuggling operation, police said Friday.
Authorities initially served a search warrant at the house after someone called police Thursday night to report a loved one was being held there, said Assistant Police Chief Daryn Edwards.
A special-tactics team entered the house, Edwards said, and found a large, huddled group of adults — five women and the rest men. The individuals told authorities they had not eaten in a while.
‘It was a big surprise when we got in the house and saw what we saw,’ Edwards said.
Officers asked health officials to test the captives for coronavirus infections after some complained of possible COVID-19 symptoms, including fever and loss of smell and taste sensations, Edwards said.
Anybody who tested positive would likely be quarantined, he said.
Police continued to investigate who rented the home and how the individuals ended up inside.
Relatives of the smuggling victims claim they were ordered to pay money to free their loved ones from the ‘deplorable’ conditions.
Flor Anderson, who lives close to the house in Houston, Texas, says the dilapidated property was raided on Friday after one of its occupants relatives called police to report the attempted extortion.
Police in Houston were investigating a suspected kidnapping when they executed a search warrant and found 90 men and women inside a two-story home on Chessington Drive on Friday
Law enforcement officials in Houston are investigating a human smuggling case, where more than 90 undocumented immigrants were found inside a home on the 12200 block of Chessington Drive on Friday
A Homeland Security Investigations officer take a photograph of a man at the scene of a human smuggling case, where more than 90 undocumented migrants were found inside a home
After entering the property, officers were stunned to find the victims – 85 men, and five women – living in rooms lined with mattresses, with many of the people inside starving, thirsty and unable to walk.
Five of the immigrants, most of whom are believed to have come from Central American, since tested positive for COVID-19, and have been put in isolation.
Houston PD Assistant Chief Patricia Cantu told the Houston Chronicle that many of the immigrants complained of not having eaten in days.
The startling discovery was made on Friday on Chessington Drive in Southeast Houston when cops were called to reports of a possible kidnapping.
The youngest of those apprehended were in their early 20s with some of the immigrants telling police they had come from Central America.
No minors were found, with the youngest person there being in their 20s and the oldest in their late 30s.
The occupants of the house told officers that they had not eaten in some time.
The incident began unfolding Thursday night, when police received a call reporting a kidnapping.
Edwards said detectives worked through the night to get information on a location for the possible kidnapping victim.
So far, no arrests have been made in connection with the suspected smuggling case but federal agents with Homeland Security Investigations are working to determine who is responsible for the smuggling operation.
The finding of so many immigrants crammed into the Texas home and the capsized vessel off the coast of San Diego will only add to questions over President Biden’s handling of the current border crisis.
A massive influx of migrants, including record numbers of teenagers and children without their parents have been coming across the border.
In March, 172,331 migrants were taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The numbers are the highest recorded in 20 years.
Investigators from the Department of Homeland Security have been on the scene to evaluate the possibility of human smuggling
A Homeland Security Investigations personnel escorts a man wearing handcuffs to a transport bus from a Houston home
The discovery at the southwest Houston home on Friday began with a tip about a possible kidnapping
Police responding to reports of a kidnapping said on Friday they had found more than 90 people crammed into a two-story suburban Houston home and suspected it was being used in a human smuggling operation
A White House official told CNN that the number of migrant children being held in jail-like conditions by CBP dropped nearly 84 per cent in the span of a month.
As of Wednesday, there were 954 children in CBP facilities, down from a peak of 5,767 on March 28.
Additionally, Biden said because the Trump administration waited so long to cooperate with the presidential transition – due to Trump contesting the election results – his transition team was unable to get information it needed from the relevant government agencies.
‘We didn’t find out they had fire a whole lot of people that they were understaffed considerably,’ Biden said.
He also said the Trump administration failed to plan for the seasonal upsurge that comes every spring.
‘They didn’t have beds that were available. They didn’t plan for the overflow,’ he said, arguing conditions for the kids, who have been put into overcrowded shelters with some sleeping on the floor, are better now.
President Biden continued to blame the Trump administration for the situation at the border; above immigrant families wait to be processed by U.S. Border Patrol agents after crossing the Rio Grande into South Texas
‘There’s a significant change right now, significant change in circumstance for children coming to and at the border,’ he said.
According to CBP data, the number of immigrants apprehended along the southern border jumped from 96,974 in February to 168,195 in March.
The last time single-month apprehensions were that high was in March of 2001.
Additionally in March, CBP apprehended 18,656 unaccompanied minors at the southern border, a record since at least October 2009 and double February’s numbers.
Republicans see the issue as one they can use to make in roads with voters in the 2022 midterms and have criticized Biden heavily on it, particularly for refusing to call the situation a ‘crisis.’
Biden used that word earlier this month when talking about the border but the White House quickly walked it back.
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