Immigrant experts saw this trend coming even three years ago: as the U.S. fortified its nearly 2,000-mile land border, smugglers would shift routes to the seas.
Sure enough, it’s happening on the Pacific Ocean near San Diego. Here's a story from the San Diego Union Tribune story about a village on the coast in Mexico that has become a hot spot for such attempts point — Baja village has become smugglers’ launch point.
The story says apprehensions of illegal immigrants in boat-related smuggling attempts jumped to 152 in fiscal year 2009, up from 35 in fiscal 2007. So far this fiscal year, which began in October, more than 140 illegal immigrants have been arrested in maritime smuggling attempts, the article says.
Earlier this year in January, two people died when a boat full of illegal immigrants capsized into the cold waters off Torrey Pines state beach in San Diego. Here are two short stories about the incident:
* 1 killed, 5 injured as suspected smuggling boat capsizes (LA Times, Jan. 17)
* 2nd person dies in San Diego sea smuggling attempt (San Diego Union Tribune, Jan. 19)
And here is a story from CNN about the trend from last fall:
* Mexican smugglers use Pacific as new route (CNN, Sept. 23, 2009)
At least one expert predicted this development. In the fall of 2006 when I spoke to him, Wayne Cornelius, head of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at the University of California at San Diego, forecasted the shift to the seas.
Cornelius’ quote appears at the end of this excerpt below from a story published in the Arizona Daily Star on Sept. 27, 2006. The story ran on the final day of a multi-day series about the U.S. government's efforts to seal the U.S.-Mexico border. (Sorry but I can’t post the full link to the story because it is temporarily down)
“The expansive waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean flank the nearly 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexican border.
Forty-three legal ports of entry line the southern border, where 5,049 U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers face the grueling task of finding illegal entrants hidden in the sea of 960,000 people who cross daily.
The Canadian border is twice as long, but patrolled by one-tenth as many U.S. Border Patrol agents.
The areas serve as sidelines in the match of vigor and wit that pits illegal entrants against agents. But if the federal government spends the billions of dollars and overcomes the bevy of logistical obstacles to sealing the border, all three would become important corridors, experts say.
As long as U.S. businesses offer better jobs than those available at home, illegal entrants will keep finding new ways into the country, a Star investigation found.
"The costs of a 2,000-mile seal of the land border are prohibitively high," says Wayne Cornelius, head of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at the University of California at San Diego. "And the punchline is that it wouldn't be effective because it would just divert crossings to the maritime border and the northern border, unless the jobs disappear within the U.S."