Border Patrol agents took nine people into custody Thursday morning and were seeking others who may have come ashore after a panga-style boat landed in Laguna Beach.
Seven of those detained are believed to be immigrants smuggled into the country illegally, and two are suspected of assisting in the smuggling operation, said Ralph DeSio, a spokesman with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Border Patrol agents and Laguna Beach police were dispatched about 7 a.m. to West Street Beach after a citizen reported the boat’s landing. Officials said they seized two “takeaway” vehicles found in the area. Three of those believed to be smuggled immigrants were Chinese nationals, and four were Mexican nationals. One of the suspected smugglers is a U.S. citizen, and the other had overstayed his visa, DeSio said.
The two smugglers were waiting in the parked vehicles to transport the boat’s passengers upon their arrival, the Laguna Beach Police Department said.
Video recorded from a nearby residence overlooking the beach showed 13 people dressed in dark clothing running from the boat. Border Patrol agents are searching for additional passengers they think were on the boat, DeSio said.
The nine people were taken to a Border Patrol station for processing and are being held in Department of Homeland Security custody.