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Border Patrol intercepts boat off San Diego coast carrying 23 illegal immigrants

FOX News logo FOX News 5/17/2021 Bradford Betz

Border Patrol officials rescued more than 20 people from a suspected smuggling boat early Monday off the coast of Point Loma in Southern California, according to reports.  

Officials spotted the panga shortly before 3 a.m. close to rocks off Sunset Cliff, the San Diego Tribune reported, citing police. 

A Coast Guard boat responded to the scene. Coast Guard officials tried to make contact with the small boat's operator, who allegedly ignored commands to stop. 

The panga’s engine died and the vessel drifted closer to shore. Officials feared the panga would capsize much like another small boat smuggling illegal immigrants did near the same area earlier this month, resulting in three deaths. 

San Diego lifeguards and San Diego Harbor police also arrived on the scene. The Coast Guard pulled the panga ashore and removed people from the boat, according to the Tribune. 


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Onboard were 20 men and three women who were taken to San Diego lifeguard headquarters. Border Patrol supervisory agent Jeffrey Stephenson told the Tribune that Border Patrol agents interviewed the 23 passengers and determined they were unlawfully present in the U.S. They included 20 people from Mexico, and three from Guatemala

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The panga was seized and an investigation is ongoing, San Diego’s Fox 5 reported. It remains unclear who the operator was. The passengers, meanwhile, have been taken to a Border Patrol station for processing. 

Less than three weeks ago, a packed boat being used in a human smuggling operation capsized and broke apart near the rugged peninsula of Point Loma – about five miles from where Monday’s panga was intercepted. 

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In the earlier incident, three people died, including a 41-year-old woman, a 35-year-old man, and a man of unknown age. Agents determined all were Mexican citizens with no legal status to enter the U.S. Two of the people on the boat – the suspected smugglers – are facing federal charges. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.  

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