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More migrants are risking the dangers of the sea than traditional border crossings.
More migrants are risking the dangers of the sea than traditional border crossings. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images.

More migrants are entering U.S. by sea than land

Despite the peril the ocean poses, more migrants are taking the risk of entering by sea than traditional border crossings, along the southern land border.

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The Pacific Ocean, specifically the Mexican state of Baja California that borders the U.S. State of California, is a landscape that spans beaches and mountains on the Pacific Ocean and Gulf of California. It becomes a huge tourist attraction as it nears the city of Tijuana, Mexico. 

While known for its fishing and beautiful, sandy beaches, in recent times, it has become a way to enter the U.S. outside of traditional border crossings along the southern border, where most national attention goes to as it relates to the migrant and border topic. Despite the dangers of the ocean, more are choosing to enter the U.S. by sea than land with the help of fishermen recruited by trafficking networks. 

The huge danger has a lucrative payoff for those fishermen, but also risks that can outweigh the incentives as they use their own fishing boats to carry the migrants over with the dangers of the ocean, as well as the Coast Guard that roam the Pacific looking for them. 

Despite this, it is a business that will never likely never end. 

The fishing boats used to carry the migrants are only supposed to hold six people at a time, but they often carry 15 to 30 migrants as they try to navigate the waters at night. With the amount of people on board, the huge weight can break down engines and make the boat drift off where they are at the mercy of the water and the Coast Guard. 

Many have died just trying to swim around the Tortilla Wall, a 14-mile border along the United States border fence in San Diego that extends into the Pacific Ocean. Some have even tried to cross with jet skis, but drowning is a persistent threat. 

Besides the trafficking of migrants, it is also a popular hub for trafficking drugs. According to José María Ramos, an investigator and professor that focuses on border crossings at El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, “the transfer of Mexican migrants alone by human traffickers amounts to $1,648 billion,” Ramos said, citing the World Bank. 

Migrating through sea is significantly more expensive than land crossing, as migrants have to pay anywhere from $15,000 to $17,000 without the guarantee of even making it to U.S. land. 

Most transporters average $1,000 per migrant, so for a boat of 20 people, it is a huge payoff for a dangerous gig, but the risks of landing in jail and losing everything is a constant worry. However, according to Date México, fishermen only average around $685 a month in Mexico, which makes the risks of trafficking all the more worth it to make life changing money in one trip. 

Despite the increased presence of the Coast Guard and Border Protections in the water, shipwrecks and overturns occur frequently. Alejandro Rentería, supervisor of Customs and Border Protections for San Diego said “the sea is one of the most dangerous ways to cross into the United States… The fishing boats are made for five people and fish, and now they’re getting about 15 to 20 people, and it’s very for easy for it to overturn.” 

According to a report titled “The Sea Inside: Migrants and Shipwrecks at Sea,” by the International Organization for Migrations, it examines the process for migrants trying to make the journey by sea through identifying some of the entry points and certain towns to be able to catch a boat to the U.S. 

It also laid out some potential problems that could face migrants as they make their way over, which includes the risk of being recruited by traffickers in the Gulf of Mexico to transport drugs or commit other illegal activities. 

According to figures, the number of apprehensions of boats and migrants in the San Diego area has increased by over 109% compared to 2021. A Migration Policy Institute published report from this past May, also revealed that the Coast Guard discovered the number of migrants trying to or successfully enter the U.S. through the Pacific and Atlantic waters was 14,500 in the 2021 fiscal year, compared to 7,600 in 2020. 

It is just not Mexicans, but also Central Americans making their way as well as Haitians and Cubans from the Caribbean. With the number of migrants increasing overall, there is not much that can be done to completely stop the migration. Those who get caught, only do it again.

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