SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — U.S. Border Patrol agents have seen a sharp increase in human smuggling in recent months within the Otay Mountain Wilderness area southeast of San Diego.
Smugglers are reportedly using an old dirt road called the Minnewawa Truck Trail that begins close to the border and winds up and around Otay Mountain, reaching its summit at 4,000 feet above sea level.
According to the Border Patrol’s San Diego Sector, the mountain has always been traversed by migrants at lower elevations but seeing migrants consistently climb all the way to the mountain’s apex is a new trend.
“They’ll make their way up to this road, and as of late they’re actually being picked up on this road,” said Border Patrol Agent Michael Scappechio.
Since July 2021, border agents have recorded 90 confirmed human smuggling events originating from this area, said Scappechio, explaining that the 90 vehicles that were stopped resulted in the arrest of 400 migrants and smugglers.
Scappechio says this is troubling for several reasons.
“We’re about 3 miles from the international border, 3 miles in this terrain is extremely arduous, it’s extremely challenging, the elevation climb here is about four thousand feet, it’s a significant climb,” he said. “Sometimes when it’s hot out here folks don’t bring enough water, sometimes they get lost.”
Another reason for concern is the road itself.
“This road is incredibly dangerous,” Scappechio said. “The road we came upon is incredibly dangerous it’s only about 4 meters wide at its widest point, can barely fit one vehicle and when we encounter folks smuggling on this road they often times use some pretty dangerous driving tactics to evade us.”
As you drive up and down Minnewawa Truck Trail, you can see many wrecks in canyons below the roadway –cars that have plunged over the side.
“Human smuggling organizations show a complete disregard for the safety of the people they are smuggling as well as for the safety of the hikers, bike riders and off-road enthusiasts who frequent the Otay Mountain Wilderness area,” said Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke. “The treacherous driving tactics used by these criminals have resulted in numerous accidents, injuries, and death.”