Nov. 1 (UPI) — Federal authorities said a woman died over the weekend as dozens of migrants attempted to swim from Mexico around a U.S. southern border barrier into southern California.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement the woman was pronounced dead early Saturday after she was found unresponsive by a border agent who was responding to a call about a group of possibly 70 people attempting to swim across the boundary from Tijuana, Mexico, into the United States at Border Field State Park.
The agent attempted to perform life-saving measures on the woman but to no avail, the federal agency said.
“This is yet another example of the ruthless tactics smuggling organizations use to bolster their power and profits,” said San Diego Sector’s Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke. “We will work tirelessly to pursue and bring to justice those responsible for this tragedy.”
The federal agency said agents apprehended 36 adult Mexicans, including 25 men and 11 women. Thirteen of those detained were rescued from the water by the U.S. Coast Guard.
“All 36 persons were taken into custody and transported to a nearby Border Patrol station for processing,” the CBP said, adding that its agents, along with those with Air and Marine Operations, the Coast Guard and California State Parks, continued to search to locate others who may be in distress.
The migrants’ attempt to enter the country follows CBP warning there has been an increase in maritime smuggling off the coast of San Diego.
In late April, Heitke said they had seen “a dramatic increase” in such smuggling attempts, which he described as “inherently dangerous.”
“We have seen too many turn from risky to tragic as smugglers sacrifice the safety of those on board for the sake of profits,” he said.
Days after he made the warning, three people were reported dead after their boat capsized off the coast of San Diego. Twenty-nine people from the smuggling boat were found alive, authorities said.
In late August, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said maritime smuggling activity in Orange, Los Angeles and Ventura counties was increasing, with agents responding to 12 smuggling events in the previous month, resulting in 90 undocumented migrants apprehended.
“Smuggling along the California coastline is inherently dangerous, and criminal organizations are not concerned with public safety,” ICE said in a statement in late summer. “They see migrants and narcotics as simply cargo.”