SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — Tijuana’s Fire Department is reporting a 30- to 40-percent increase in the number of people trying to swim around the section of border barrier that extends into the ocean south of Imperial Beach, California.
And it says smugglers are using the low tides to get more migrants to walk and float around the fence including babies.
“There has been a steady climb in the numbers. They vary day to day. You could have one on one day and then 10 the next,” said Rafael Carrillo Venegas, Tijuana’s fire chief.
And Carrillo Venegas said they are noticing more “mass crossings of migrants at one time.”
A mass crossing is described as three or more persons.
“We have seen groups of up to 40 migrants. They are all looking for inflatables or something to keep them afloat as they get to the beach, even babies,” Carrillo Venegas said. “During low tide, they can walk most of the way and then swim a bit until they reach the coast in the United States.”
The fire chief stated they work with agencies north of the border, including U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and alert them when they see a mass crossing taking place.
“There is a long-standing relationship that continues because every day we see these crossings.”
As for CBP, it did not confirm or get into specifics of Chief Carrillo Venegas’ claims about an increase in “low-tide crossings.”
Justin Castrejon, a spokesman for Border Patrol, did say all agents keep track of the tides as a way to determine when and where maritime smuggling events might take place.
“It’s unique to the San Diego Sector, this maritime front,” he said. “Whether it’s using pangas, fishing-style boats, pleasure craft, personal water craft, and simply instructing people to swim across the maritime boundary line.”
Castrejon said all smuggling attempts over water are considered maritime smuggling events.
“For the last fiscal year, we had over 600 maritime smuggling events, this fiscal year, we’re at more than 500 of those maritime events, so we’re going to see them constantly, our job as Border Patrol Agents is to detect those and hopefully interdict them.”
Castrejon stressed another reason for trying to stop maritime smuggling events is to prevent the loss of life.
“We have agents in place, we have cameras, we work with our partners with air and marine operations with our partners in the Coast Guard, we’re working collectively to try and be there if people find themselves in a particular situation and in need of help,” said Castrejon.
Castrejon told Border Report agents are also trained and ready to respond should the need arise to rescue migrants in the water.
One event was captured on video almost two years ago when agents ran into the surf to rescue a migrant who was drowning after trying to swim around the barrier.
“Agents were quick to respond, they broke down their equipment and got into that water without even knowing the status of this person, whether this person crossed illegally or whether this person was a local.”
Castrejon says CBP and the Department of Homeland Security are always looking for the public’s help in reporting suspicious activity and encourages people to call their hotline at (800) 854-9834 ext. 1.