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18 arrested after two human-smuggling boats are intercepted; others escape

October 14, 2009 |  4:24 pm

Federal authorities intercepted two smuggling boats off San Diego County in separate incidents Tuesday in which some suspected illegal immigrants appear to have escaped after wading to shore.

Customs and Border Protection agents patrolling the coast about 3:30 a.m. arrested two suspected smugglers on a boat eight miles offshore. The men – both Mexican citizens – had just dropped off six people at a beach in Carlsbad, and two of them were later arrested, authorities said. The other four were not found.

About 11 p.m., a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter and vessel intercepted a small boat in San Diego’s Mission Bay. Fourteen suspected illegal immigrants were taken off the boat and arrested. One immigrant escaped by swimming for the beach.

The two cases are the latest in a rash of maritime smuggling incidents as traffickers avoid beefed-up enforcement on land.

-- Richard Marosi