SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — These waters seem calm but they carried at least eight lifeless bodies on Saturday night.
“It was one of the worst maritime tragedies that I can think of in California, certainly here in San Diego,” said James Gartland, San Diego Lifeguard Chief.
These two fishing boats capsized near the shores of Black’s Beach just before midnight. A total of 23 adult migrants were on board. The Mexican consulate confirmed that seven of the eight people who died were from Mexico. Rescue teams did not find any survivors.
“I think a lot of people don’t know exactly how dangerous this trek is,” said Pedro Rios, the Director of the American Friends Service Committee.
Coast guard of Southern California says 23 lives were lost in maritime smuggling incidents over the last two years. Among those were three people who died along the coast of Point Loma in May of 2021. Leaders believe these deaths are a result of human trafficking.
“This is part of a trans-national criminal organization effort to smuggle people into the United States,” said James Spitler, Sector Commander for the U.S. Coast Guard.
But human rights activist Pedro Rios says that’s not the full story.
“Characterizing it as a criminal affair diminishes the reality that people are experiencing,” Rios said.
Rios correlates the increase in maritime smuggling to recent anti-asylum laws.
“When people don’t have the ability to show up at the port and make an asylum claim, it leads to people seeking out very dangerous methods to cross to the U.S.,” Rios said.
U.S. Border Patrol says they’re working with the Mexican government to prevent this from happening again.