There is some type of migrant interception happening in the waters off southern California every day as human smuggling boats are constantly being launched from Mexico, according to the San Diego Coast Guard.
Maritime apprehensions are up 800% since 2017, with 600 migrants being stopped in just the first two months of 2023, Lt. Commander Eric Watkins, USCG San Diego station told NewsNation.
Last year, more than 800 migrants died while trying to cross the southern border illegally, according to Customs and Border Patrol.
Earlier this month, eight migrants died after two smuggling boats capsized at Black’s Beach in La Jolla, just north of San Diego.
Watkins estimates his team is catching around 30% of the migrants trying to enter the U.S., saying, “We don’t have a sensor to see every single spot of the ocean and with limited assets and resources, we can’t be everywhere on the water.”
“It’s 24-7 out here on the southern border. They’re coming during the middle of the day, middle of the night, it’s very busy,” said Petty Officer Sam Van Lent of the United States Coast Guard San Diego.
Boats are disguised to look like ordinary maritime traffic, making it hard for authorities to know which vessels to stop. Members of the USCG San Diego told NewsNation about the immense job of patrolling the waters off southern California.
“They’re blending in with all this traffic that you see out here,” said Watkins.
Incidents where migrants are rescued or stopped happen far less frequently than instances of migrants successfully making it to shore. The “gotaways” are suspected to be in the thousands.
“It’s concerning. I don’t really understand how they’re getting over here and why we don’t have more precautions going on and more protection,” said Jamie Nash, a resident of La Jolla.
Authorities tell NewsNation migrant safety is a focus not only because of the harrowing journey by boat, but because trans-national criminal organizations are often forcing migrants into labor or sex trafficking pipelines once they arrive in the U.S.