Migrant boat evades surfers in high-speed landing on California beach

By Thomson Reuters Apr 15, 2024 | 8:48 PM

By Daniel Trotta

CARLSBAD, California (Reuters) – Local leaders from the San Diego area called for more U.S. border enforcement on Monday after a motor boat loaded with migrants navigated between surfers and beached itself in the affluent suburb of Carlsbad, California.

Circulated widely on social media, the video showed the boat running ashore on Saturday, when at least 16 people hopped out and ran to the street where an awaiting SUV took some of them away. Others melded into the residential and commercial district frequented by tourists and locals.

The image of migrants presumed to be entering the country illegally has added fuel to the U.S. immigration debate that is one of the animating issues in the Nov. 5 presidential election between Democratic incumbent Joe Biden and Republican challenger Donald Trump.

Elected officials from non-partisan offices in four cities and San Diego County convened a press conference near the Carlsbad site about 50 miles (80 km) north of the Mexican border on Monday, taking turns demanding more border security and criticizing U.S. immigration policy.

“We cannot have people just rushing in on boats onto our shores and going into neighborhoods. We need harsher penalties on human smugglers. We need the state and federal officials to bring more resources, whether it’s more Coast Guard or National Guard,” County Supervisor Jim Desmond told reporters.

The number of maritime smuggling events off the California coast increased from 308 in 2020 to 736 in 2023, Desmond said, citing U.S. data.

Earlier on Monday, U.S. Representative Mike Levin, a Democrat whose district includes Carlsbad, urged the Republican House leadership to bring to a vote a pre-existing resolution that would double the range in which Customs and Border Patrol agents can operate at sea, from 12 to 24 nautical miles.

Such landings and interdictions at sea are fairly common, but the striking image is rarely captured on video.

One to four such boats are abandoned on San Diego County beaches each week, said Robert Butler, chief executive of TowBoatUS San Diego, the marine salvage company hired to remove them. The boats are typically loaded with multiple fuel tanks but scant evidence of where they came from or who operated them, Butler said.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Michael Perry)