CBP maritime patrol
Supervisory Marine Interdiction Agent Evan Wagley (right), Deputy Director Reif Smith, and Agent Kurt Nagel, ride on a Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations boat off the coast of San Diego. (Zoë Meyers/inewsource)

In the predawn hours of a May morning last year, a dozen migrants desperately tried to keep their heads above water about 80 yards from Marine Street beach in La Jolla.

They had just jumped into the open ocean from a panga boat, an open hull fishing vessel, after the two smugglers leading the journey told them to remove their life jackets and swim to shore. 

Two migrants stayed aboard and tossed life jackets to others as they yelled for help. One person climbed back in. 

Then, a lifeless body appeared in the water. 

Those are the details laid out in court documents for a federal district case that convicted two Mexican nationals of human smuggling resulting in death.  

Rogelio Perez Gutierrez, a 42-year-old Mexican national, was one of 14 migrants who boarded the overcrowded panga boat with little food, water or safety measures in May 2021 in an attempt to enter the U.S. without detection. Both smugglers and the other passengers survived, save for Perez Gutierrez. 

Maritime smuggling attempts across the U.S.-Mexico border — of both people and contraband — have shot up over the past four years. 

From fiscal year 2019 to 2022, smuggling or illegal entry attempts by sea have more than tripled, according to data from the Southern California Regional Coordinating Mechanism, a coalition of local and federal agencies including the U.S. Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection

Smuggling or illegal entry attempts by sea, referred to as maritime events by ReCom, rose the sharpest — more than 70% — between fiscal year 2021 and 2022, which ended September 30. More than 660 maritime events and five deaths were reported that year.

Read the full article on inewsource.org.

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Ellen Bullock