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Border authorities arrest 31 illegal immigrants wading ashore along San Diego County coast

February 8, 2011 |  2:39 pm

U.S. border authorities intercepted two separate maritime smuggling attempts this week, arresting 31 illegal immigrants wading ashore along the San Diego County coast, authorities said. In both cases, the operators of the small, panga-style boats fled back to Mexico in their boats.

In the first incident early Monday morning, U.S. Border Patrol agents arrested 14 people who had just come ashore near the mouth of the Tijuana River near Imperial Beach in southern San Diego County, according to U.S. Border Patrol officials.

A few hours later, another boat dropped off 17 people on a beach at Camp Pendleton. The four women and 13 men tried to run away but were arrested by agents who were on routine patrol, authorities said. The agency has increased patrols at the Marine base in response to increased efforts by smuggling groups to drop immigrants there.

Smuggling by sea has increased in recent years because of bolstered enforcement on land. Smugglers charge immigrants as much as $6,000, and often escape by speeding back to Mexican waters after dropping off their passengers.

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-- Richard Marosi in San Diego

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