Border Patrol agents detain 16 off Mission Beach in human smuggling attempt

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Border Patrol agents — members of a newly formed marine unit — stopped a sports fishing boat off Mission Beach Saturday night and detained 16 unauthorized immigrants, officials said Tuesday.

Agents patrolling the shoreline saw the 25-foot vessel enter the Mission Bay channel about 7:45 p.m. and noticed the boat appeared heavy in the water, with several people on board, Border Patrol Agent Juan Torres Jr. said.

The agents stopped the boat and questioned two operators and three passengers on deck. When the agents inspected the vessel, they found another 11 passengers inside the cabin, Torres said.

The agents determined that no one in the group, including an unaccompanied 15-year-old passenger, was legally authorized to be in the U.S. The group was taken to a nearby Border Patrol station for processing.

The operators — two Mexican nationals, ages 30 and 50 — were arrested on suspicion of human smuggling, Torres said.

“Smuggling along the California coastline is not only illegal, it is inherently dangerous for all involved parties,” Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke of the San Diego Sector said in a statement. “I’m thankful our agents and partners are out there daily to intercept such incidents.”

The marine unit was launched two months ago as human smuggling attempts in the San Diego area were on the rise, Heitke said at the time. The unit also focuses on drug smuggling at sea. The team is equipped with two boats, each staffed with three specially trained agents.

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