Thu, Sep 24, 2009 - Page 7 News List

San Diego-Tijuana port closed after trafficking attempt

REUTERS , TIJUANA, MEXICO

US authorities closed the world’s busiest land border crossing for several hours on Tuesday after suspected Mexican human traffickers tried to enter with illegal immigrants, US officials said.

US agents fired at three vans packed with about 70 illegal immigrants that tried to evade heavy security and cross into the US, the officials said.

“The port is closed and will remain closed for several hours,” US Customs and Border Patrol spokeswoman Angelica De Cima said after the incident at the congested San Ysidro crossing between the Mexican city of Tijuana and San Diego.

WOUNDED

Three people in the vans and a motorist were wounded, said Lauren Mack, a spokeswoman for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Officials said the suspected migrants did not open fire on US agents as initial reports had suggested.

“Three vans attempted to run the port through one of the northbound vehicle lanes to avoid inspection,” De Cima said, adding that two agents fired their weapons.

“I cannot confirm that fire was returned,” she said.

Mack said the border crossing partially reopened on Tuesday evening. A Mexican border hotline for motorists said seven lanes at the crossing were open.

BIG RISKS

Mexico’s violent drug gangs are increasingly moving into the lucrative people-smuggling business, but tight US border security is forcing them to take bigger risks to get narcotics and illegal immigrants into the US.

The brazen attempt was unprecedented at the heavily guarded crossing, where helicopters circle overhead and armed agents with dogs keep watch at a series of staggered checkpoints.

All the illegal immigrants were arrested and taken into custody. The crossing, a major smuggling corridor for narcotics and illegal immigrants, was shut while police conducted the investigation.

Some 90 million people a year use the California-Mexico land border crossings, with almost half the traffic going through San Ysidro.

ANGRY DRIVERS

Angry drivers blared car horns as a huge traffic jam built up on the Mexican side while US agents signaled them to turn around.

“I’ve never known the entire crossing to be closed before. We just didn’t believe the agents when they told us to turn around,” said a Mexican student who gave his name as Juan Carlos and who crosses the border almost daily.

US officials are directing motorists to California’s other six border crossings, which also handle trucks.

This story has been viewed 1929 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top