A dozen people were arrested after U.S. border officials spotted two panga boats smuggling people into the country along the San Diego coast early Thursday morning.
Another four people involved in the maritime smuggling incidents were able to flee, including the operator of one of the boats, according to Eduardo Lamos, a public information officer with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The seven men and five women who were taken into custody were mostly from Mexico, while one person was Guatemalan. All were adults, ranging from 19 to 43 years old, CBP said in a press release.
The first of two boats was spotted just west of Belmont Park in Mission Beach by surveillance cameras at the Port of San Diego around 2:20 a.m., according to the statement.
The boat's 10 passengers ran ashore after it made landfall near Ostend Court, but all 10 were soon apprehended by Border Patrol officers.
The vessel's operator, however, was able to escape, according to Lamos. The panga was last seen heading south.
Minutes later, the harbor surveillance cameras spotted a second panga boat carrying five people just west of Sunset Cliffs.
Officers caught up with the vessel when it landed near Adair Street at about 2:40 a.m., according to the CBP statement.
Two of the occupants were arrested while the other three were able to flee, Lamos said. The boat was seized by Border Patrol officials.
All 12 of those who were taken into custody were determined to have unlawfully entered the country, according to CBP.