The new border fence built in San Diego in 2017 means that smugglers are forced to enter the United States by sea to traffic people and drugs, where federal security forces can intercept them. According to reports from Border Patrol agents, there has been a substantial increase in the number of trafficking stops on the southern California coast in the last year.

“Over the past year, within 2020, we’ve had a record number of marine interdictions, including pangas [small, fast boats], jet skis, swimmers, and paddle boaters,”  San Diego Border Patrol agent Aaron Heitke told the Washington Examiner. “The wall structure itself is solidifying the land border, and it’s forcing the smugglers to come out into the maritime environment.”

Maritime agents use jet skis and boats to patrol a stretch of about 20 miles of coastline. According to reports, in the period from Oct. 1, 2019, to Sept. 30, 2020, 302 arrests were made, while in the two previous years, 195 and 88 were recorded, respectively. 

One such incident this year resulted in the seizure of a small boat loaded with over 3,000 pounds of methamphetamine.

On the other hand, arrests of illegal immigrants in the same area increased 92 percent over last year, from 662 arrests in 2019 to 1271 in 2020. While during 2015, only 219 people were arrested.

In the San Diego region, the border fence extends approximately 100 feet into the ocean, preventing several illegal entries. Still, it cannot stop people from jumping into the sea and swimming around it or stop people jumping off boats and running ashore. 

Smugglers usually leave Tijuana by boat and try to evade detection as they enter United States waters, then order people on board to jump ashore, where they can quickly blend in with San Diego County’s 3.3 million residents. 

Since the 1990s, illegal immigration in the region has steadily increased. Previously, immigrants crossed in their hundreds by running together across a border that was barely guarded by a wall with vertical plates that were very easy to cut through or climb over. Most people wanted to enter the country to escape the crisis in Central America.

Today the new wall runs for 18 miles, stretching from the coast to the mountains. It stretches from 18 feet to 30 feet tall and is comprised of steel fence posts filled with concrete and rebar. It starts at the coast and goes up into the mountains in Otay Mesa, California.

Adding to the imposing physical barrier smugglers can be detected thanks to new cameras, sensors, radar systems, and underground fiber optic systems.

In a speech in the city of Yuma on August 19, President Trump highlighted the work of the Border Patrol and the progress in the construction of the Mexican border wall.

In his speech, he again stressed the wall’s function as a tool to combat drug trafficking, human trafficking,, and the illegal entry of people. As he stated on other occasions, President Trump welcomes those immigrants who decide to enter the United States legally on merit and condition. Still, he stands firm with those who choose the path of illegality. 

He also highlighted the work done on immigration policies, which allowed for a significant reduction in the entry of illegal immigrants. “it’s a great feeling to have closed up the border. Now people come in if they come in through merit if they come in legally—but they don’t come in like they used to. And human trafficking is—I think we’re down 96 percent or something. It’s been incredible.”