U.S. Border Patrol agents are operating in Laguna Beach following a series of "incursions" by illegal immigrants crossing into coastal Southern California, according to a Border Patrol spokesman.
"Our mission is to protect American borders, and we are getting incursions by boat," said Daryl Reed, a spokesman for the San Diego Sector of the Border Patrol.
"Our actions are based on intel," he added. "We are getting phone calls and tips."
A number of early-morning landings have been reported in Laguna waters, including one incident in late December at Aliso Beach, where an estimated dozen or more people landed on the beach, were met by someone with dry clothing and led to a local neighborhood, where they boarded a van for parts unknown.
Reed said there have been 54 boat landings along the coast within the San Diego Sector between Oct. 1 and May 31. There were 49 landings in the previous fiscal year, Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, and 33 in 2008.
The last incursion was reported Sunday night at Torrey Pines beach in northern San Diego, Reed said.
"They are coming further north, so the Border Patrol is here, responding to a threat," he said.
One of those questioned by immigration authorities was an employee of Los Angeles Times Community News, who was approached around noon June 18 as he was working on a Coastline Pilot news rack in downtown Laguna Beach.
The employee, who is an American citizen of Mexican descent, said that five Border Patrol vehicles were in the area of Coast Highway and that one pulled over near where he was working. An agent asked to see his identification, and he produced a California driver's license. The employee was not detained and allowed to return to work.
Reed said the agency is not allowed to select people for investigation based solely on their race and rely on informants to determine targets.
"Just because someone is working doesn't mean he is legal," Reed said. "Many times we see people pretend to be landscapers or pretend to be doing other work. We stop Caucasians, too. A smuggler could be anyone."