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Human smuggling boat seized, 20 detained in El Segundo

March 21, 2012 | 10:41 am

Authorities detained 20 suspected illegal immigrants Wednesday after a smuggling boat washed ashore in El Segundo.

The small panga boat had departed from Tijuana and landed on the beach near the NRG power plant in El Segundo just before sunrise, said Lt. Raymond Garcia of the El Segundo Police Department. Police responded to a call at 6:45 a.m. that people were "running in all directions," he said.

Local authorities detained 20 people and turned them over to federal immigration officials, Garcia said.

"They were all wet, cold, scared," he said. "Some weird things wash up in our city but never a boat full of illegal immigrants."

Panga boats are used by Mexican fishermen, as well as smugglers attempting to bring undocumented immigrants or drugs across the border.

As enforcement has tightened along the border since 2007, smugglers have increasingly turned to the ocean as a route. Although most of the boats have come ashore in northern San Diego County, others have been found along the beaches of Orange and Los Angeles counties.

Driving it all are enormous profits. Smugglers charge immigrants as much as $6,000, and a boatload of 20 can bring more than $100,000.

Federal immigration authorities said they have intercepted boats as far north as Santa Barbara County.


3 arrested, pot seized after boat washes ashore

Border battle over illegal immigration shifts to beaches

Tightened borders force immigrant smugglers to take risky sea routes

-- Michael J. Mishak


Photo: Federal agents and El Segundo police officers check a panga boat that washed ashore in El Segundo on Wednesday morning. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times