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More Boats, Fewer People Caught Illegally Crossing Border By Sea

Above: The current border fence where the U.S.A. and Mexico meet at the Pacific Ocean.

Aired 3/12/12 on KPBS News.

Last year was the Border Patrol's first recorded drop in maritime apprehensions.

— The number of vessels caught trying to illegally enter the U.S. by sea from Mexico in San Diego County increased by 48 percent from 123 to 183 between 2010 to 2011.

But the number of individuals caught aboard those watercrafts declined by 27 percent during the same time period, according to statistics provided by the Border Patrol in San Diego.

It was the first time the agency has recorded a drop in the number of people caught trying to make it to San Diego County shores since it started keeping maritime smuggling statistics in 2008.

The Border Patrol says that's because it is encountering more personal watercrafts, which carry only one or two people, unlike larger, slower boats full of migrants. Personal watercrafts have become a preferred vehicle for drug smugglers.

“They’re quick to illegally enter the United States, drop off their cargo and quickly return back to Mexico," spokesman Jose Velasquez said.

The Border Patrol attributes last year's decrease in apprehended individuals - from 867 in 2010 to 631 last year - to a recent initiative that created harsher penalties for maritime smugglers and migrants.

Nonetheless, despite the decline in apprehended individuals, the number of intercepted watercrafts has risen each year since 2008.

Border crossings by sea have been rising since the U.S. increased its enforcement of the land border, forcing smugglers and migrants to find other routes into the United States.

That increase has been cited by border enforcement critics as evidence that migrants and smugglers will just find other ways in.

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