According to the latest CBP data, Customs and Border Protection agents stopped more migrants at sea in 2020 than during the previous three years, with apprehensions along the Pacific coast driving numbers up to 766 stops last year from 44 in fiscal 2017, reports the Los Angeles Times. Experts say the shift to maritime crossings — in response to restrictive border policies and the devastation from COVID-19 across the hemisphere — is amplifying the danger these migrants face as they seek to reach the United States.
Since October 1, 2020, agents in the CBP’s San Diego region, which stretches along the California coast from Imperial Beach to the Oregon border, have intercepted more than 330 marine vessels with 1,751 people. The number encompasses the migrants intercepted and U.S. citizens suspected of smuggling them. Smugglers have priced a successful land crossing at $14,000, but charge an extra $4,000 for a sea crossing. Last year, maritime apprehensions in Southern California surpassed those in the Caribbean, CBP data show, and were more than three times the number out of the Miami region — which saw a high of 2,095 apprehensions in 2016. Some immigrant advocates say the United States’ restrictive, pandemic-era border policy is in large part behind the increased attempts by migrants to cross the San Diego border by sea, because when one migration route is made harder, others pop up.