U.S. Coast Guard Issues Hazard Warnings To Would-Be Migrants

SAN DIEGO – The Coast Guard is warning would-be migrants not to try using the water as a way to cross the border into the United States; it is both dangerous and illegal. The Coast Guard has stepped up its border vigilance in the waters near San Diego keeping an eye out for people trying the swim.

“We continue to closely coordinate with our law-enforcement partners in the region to address this concern,” said Capt. Chip Strangfeld, commander of Coast Guard Sector San Diego. “As is the case with hazardous land border crossings, trying to enter the U.S. by sea, by swimming around the border, is extremely dangerous.”

The increase in patrols was prompted by recent incidents where migrants have tried swimming across the border and onto US soil. The Coast Guard is concerned about the safety of these individuals and the risks they are taking, and joint patrols of the water with Customs and Border Protection assets have increased accordingly.  Both agencies, with assistance from the Border Patrol, will continue to monitor the waters around San Diego in case anyone does put themselves and their families at risk.

In the San Diego area, the Coast Guard intercepts about 50 undocumented migrants a year, about  40%, or 20, of those trying to make the swim.

Hazards of crossing illegally include:

  • Water temperature: The water near the border of Mexico and the United States average 57 degrees during the winter months (October-April) and 62 degrees during the summer months (May-Sept). A well rested person in excellent health, wearing normal clothes (t-shirt, jeans, tennis shoes) has an estimated two hours of useful consciousness in winter water temperatures and three hours in the summer. Once migrants have made it into U.S. waters, they have to exit the water in an area that frequently has high surf. Inexperienced swimmers have drowned or been seriously injured in these areas.
  • Boating Traffic: The waters near the border of Mexico and the United States has a steady flow of recreational and commercial boating traffic. People swimming run the risk of being struck by boating traffic. Migrant swimmers most often attempt to cross at night which makes them nearly impossible to see from a boat.
  • Wildlife: Mako, Thresher, and Leopard sharks are typical in the area near the border of Mexico and the U.S.
  • Length of the swim: The amount of physical endurance required to swim outside of the closely monitored surf zone is often underestimated and can result in death by drowning.
  • The Border is Patrolled Randomly and Regularly: The Coast Guard and other agencies patrol the border between Mexico and the U.S. regularly. Crossing the international border in this fashion is both dangerous and illegal, and is punishable by U.S. federal law.

If you see suspicious or dangerous activity on the water, please call the Waterway Watch hotline at 877-24-WATCH.

Visit Waterway Watch for additional information.

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