Feds seize boat that landed in Long Beach carrying 23 Mexican citizens, officials say

A small boat carrying 23 people landed on the Peninsula in Long Beach Tuesday afternoon and immigration authorities arrested all those aboard, according to federal officials.

A group of regional government operations, including the Coast Guard and U.S. Border Patrol, tracked the vessel as it was coming to shore, said Jaime Ruiz, an information officer for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. He wasn’t authorized to say exactly how this boat was spotted, but he said that it could have been anything from an aircraft to other boats detecting it.

“It’s a pretty unique incident. I don’t remember a landfall happening like this in Long Beach,” Ruiz said.

The small open-bowed fishing boat, also known as a panga, made landfall at about 4 p.m. near Ocean Boulevard and 55th Place, officials said. Aboard were 21 male and two females passengers, two of whom were minors, according to Ruiz. All of them said they were citizens of Mexico, he said.

It’s so far unclear how long the people were on the boat. It could have been anywhere from 12 hours to several days, depending on where along the Mexico coast they came from, Ruiz said. All the people aboard were uninjured and appeared to be in good health, despite the cold conditions they endured on the open boat, he said.

Before returning the passengers to Mexico, officials will interview them to try to determine exactly where they are from, whether and how much they paid smugglers, and if any of them previously tried to entry the country illegally, Ruiz said.

This incident follows a particularly active year for attempted human smuggling to Southern California beaches, according to Ruiz. He said officials have been tracking a “concerning” trend that started in October of 2019. In San Diego and Orange Counties, officials have arrested more than 100 people in the last week alone, Ruiz said. Oftentimes, those smuggled will end up on Ventura beaches, however, not Long Beach.

“We’ve always had panga smuggling attempts, but it’s increased in the last year,” Ruiz said. He didn’t want to speculate on the reason for the increase.

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Valerie Osier is the Social Media & Newsletter Manager for the Long Beach Post. She started at the Post in 2018 as a breaking news reporter. She’s a Riverside native who found her love for journalism while at community college. She graduated from the Cal State Long Beach journalism program in 2017 and covered the Palos Verdes Peninsula for the Daily Breeze prior to coming to the Post. She lives in Long Beach with her husband and two cats.
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