Federal agents find 21 Mexican nationals on panga off Point Loma coast
U.S. Customs and Border Protection turned over the detainees, suspected of being undocumented immigrants, to the Border Patrol.
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter crew saw a small boat with no lights late April 28 off the coast of Point Loma, leading to the detention of 21 Mexican citizens suspected of trying to enter the United States unlawfully, authorities said.
The helicopter crew first spotted the panga, a type of shallow fishing boat with an outboard motor, shortly before midnight, and a Customs and Border Protection boat made contact with the vessel around 1 a.m. April 29, according to CBP spokeswoman Jackie Wasiluk.
The panga was 11 miles off the coast of Point Loma and headed toward land when the CBP boat hailed it with lights and sirens, Wasiluk said.
The vessel stopped, and agents took 15 men and six women into custody, all of them Mexican nationals and suspected of being undocumented immigrants, Wasiluk said. The CBP agents took them to shore and turned them over to Border Patrol agents.
Two of the people detained are suspected of being smugglers and are expected to face federal charges, according to Wasiluk, who said the operation was the 157th maritime smuggling event recorded by the San Diego Sector Border Patrol since Oct. 1. In fiscal 2020, there were 309 recorded maritime smuggling events. ◆