Update on Federal Enforcement of Illegal Migrant Smuggling by Boat

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CBP agents on patrol. Courtesy of CBP

The City of Newport Beach is aware of recent ocean waterway landings by small vessels known as “panga” boats, which are often used to transport migrants illegally from Mexico into the United States.

Such vessel landings occur along the entire California coast, including two instances in Newport Beach during the month of May.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is the lead agency in all cases of illegal immigration enforcement. CBP conducts investigations and takes enforcement action along the Orange County coast, including Newport Beach. Most of their recent local enforcement activity involved interdiction of these vessel landings.

CBP has a variety of resources to investigate and enforce illegal immigration via ocean waterways, including aircraft, vessels, and land-based patrol units to intercept these vessels and their occupants.

Under California law, the Newport Beach Police Department (NBPD) and other local law enforcement agencies cannot serve as immigration enforcement agents. However, the NBPD often responds to these incidents as there may be other related illegal activity that violates California law or Newport Beach Municipal Codes.

For example, the NBPD can investigate instances of suspected human trafficking or narcotics trafficking, as well as criminal activity (often gang-related) by those who operate these vessels or the on-shore vehicles that meet them.

Because ocean navigation via panga boats is extremely dangerous, sometimes resulting in drownings and other accidents, local police and fire units respond as needed in an emergency medical aid capacity as well.

The City of Newport Beach encourages residents to notify the Police Department at (949) 644-3717 (non-emergency) or 911 (emergency) if they witness any suspicious activity or unusual vessel landings. This information will enable the Police Department to assess the situation and notify CBP agents as necessary.

In addition, suspicious vessel landings can be reported directly to CBP by calling (800) BE-ALERT or (800) 232-5378.

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