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"SANTA BARBARA, CALIF. -- Standing on a bluff along the central
California coast, rancher Paul Van Leer pointed to the beach near his
property where a Mexican smuggling boat, known as a panga, came ashore
in May loaded with marijuana.
“The concern for me is that you’re bringing in a criminal element here
that previously was never here before,” he said. “The criminal element
is coming from Mexico in the boats and then they hire people from L.A.
to transport the drugs once they land on the beach.”
The rancher's safety concerns reflect a trend noticed by federal and
local law enforcement officials -- that Mexican maritime smugglers are
bringing their illicit cargo farther and farther north along the
“We anticipate that trend to increase, because right now is a [Mexican]
marijuana harvest, so we expect to have more vessels coming up,” said
Claude Arnold, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security
Recently, Mexican boats carrying marijuana loads have landed on remote
shores more than 300 miles north of San Diego. Two pangas were found
near Big Sur. Another landed on the secured beaches of Vandenberg Air
Force Base, while other smugglers left $4 million worth of marijuana
bales strewn along the beaches near Refugio State Park, close to the
pricey homes there.
A National Park threat
Federal law enforcement officials say the maritime smugglers set sail
from Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, south of Tijuana. Most of the pangas carry
lucrative marijuana loads, but many also ferry immigrants hoping to
sneak into the United States. Recently, the Mexican Navy announced it
is finding about 150 migrants a month on an average of 10 to 12 boats.
“These folks are out there without life jackets, without signaling
devices, without radios, so if anything were to happen it would be a
major tragedy, it would be a severe loss of life,” said Lt. Commander
Casey Hehr, Chief of Law Enforcement for the U.S. Coast Guard sector in
Los Angeles-Long Beach.
While most of the Mexican immigrant smugglers drop off their human cargo
loads in southern California near San Diego, the marijuana smugglers
are traveling farther north to avoid detection.
For the last three years, some of the smugglers have been using the
Channel Islands National Park, a chain of environmentally sensitive
islands off the Ventura and Santa Barbara coastlines, to refuel or to
hide from U.S. Coast Guard patrols.
In 2010, a panga loaded with 2500 pounds of marijuana landed on Santa
Rosa Island. A year later, 16 undocumented migrants were dropped off on
Santa Cruz Island. Smugglers have also dumped fuel canisters in the
The most dramatic and tragic incident occurred last December in
Smugglers Cove, off Santa Cruz Island. Authorities say two suspected
smugglers on a panga rammed a Coast Guard inflatable boat as it was
approaching them, killing Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne.
“The vessel increased speed, directly rammed the Coast Guard small
boat,” said Hehr. “At that point two Coast Guard members were ejected
into the water. Senior Chief Horne was actually killed by the panga as
he went into the water.”
Two suspects were arrested shortly afterward and now await trial.
Park officials say with more than a half-million visitors to the Channel
Islands every year, they worry about the possibility of smugglers
confronting tourists, although so far that hasn’t occurred.
“It’s unfortunate this type of criminal activity is happening in a
national park and in an area where people come to take refuge from their
life and to experience relaxation,” said Yvonne Menard of the National
Law enforcement officials said the rise in Mexican maritime smuggling is
a direct result of the increased security along the land border between
the U.S. and Mexico, which is forcing smugglers to find new routes.
Since October, officials reported nearly 140 smuggling incidents along
the California coast, a slight increase from this time last year.
With smugglers heading farther north, the U.S. Department of Homeland
Security has started a San Francisco-area task force to make sure
federal, state and local officials there work together to interdict the
pangas. The California National Guard also does surveillance flights,
as agents on the ground try to infiltrate the Mexican smuggling groups
that use the pangas.
“It’s great to arrest the captains of the boats and punish them
criminally and lock them up, but ultimately that’s not going to stop or
disrupt the activity like it will when you go after the organization or
the head of the organization,” said Arnold.
Ranchers Susie and Mark Tautrim, whose coastal property is north of
Santa Barbara, said smugglers used a storm water drainage tunnel to walk
from the beach to their land in July of 2012. Police informed the
Tautrims they found footprints and wet clothing there.
“It’s very frightening to think that they’re on your land,” said Susie.
“Those kinds of people can be very desperate and that’s what scares me.”
Despite increased numbers of smuggling arrests and indictments, law
enforcement officials said they see no signs of the Mexican traffickers
slowing down their activities. In fact, some are now using recreational
boats, rather than pangas, to more effectively hide their illicit
“The operators have become more brazen,” said Hehr. “These organizations
that are smuggling in drugs, migrants and who knows what else are
Kim Watson Reporting from San Ysidro- Now Congress wants to completely kill legitimate international travel.
First they allowed religious terrorists to attack the homeland. Then they crushed the United States economy by allowing anarchist financial forces to steal Main Street and American taxpayers blind.
Today, some in the American Congress want to install cross-border travel fees. Border fees, albeit local ones, already exist on the southern border.
In Texas, local municipalities charge fees to use bridges that connect
Mexico and the U.S.
For Kenn Morris, president of marketing
research firm Crossborder Group Inc. in San Diego, the future of the
border is in public-private partnerships, unless the government acts to
improve ports of entry. For example, a private company operates and
builds a port of entry, booths and roads, and charges a fee to recoup
"I think that it's inevitable that more border
regions use those tools and those who don't want to use it that's
they're choice, but they shouldn't take the ability for other regions to
at least look at that option," he said. "For those regions that want
the ability to charge a fee, we need good analyses to create good
Citing a 2009 University of Texas study, Morris said
tolls at the border don't affect traffic flow negatively, but provide a
source of revenue to build more border infrastructure.
Here, at the
nation's busiest border entry at San Ysidro in California, 50,000
vehicles and 25,000 pedestrians cross south and north every day. For the
past few years, Congress has sent chunks of money to improve the
infrastructure. In his last budget, President Barack Obama asked for
$226 million to continue the improvements.
"Of course the cited pointy headed 'think-tanks' that support fees, will get their cut. They get payoffs called, Congressional studies, all day long". "That's why they are in favor of Border Fees", said Gary Newsome, Editor of Baja Racing News.com, a popular travel and tourism supporting website and cross-border racing news source.
"No further improvements in the border infrastructure is needed. What's really needed is a truly, secure border. San Diego has pangas filled with aliens and drugs dumping on our beaches, every night".
"How far will American citizens allow our country to be dragged into the gutter with bad public policy is the issue of our border", Newsome said.
"For the past twenty-five years, both political parties and every 'President' have delivered disaster to our borders and shores!" "Unlimited aliens and drugs, that's the future", Newsome summarized.