In the early hours of Friday morning, the Port of San Diego’s Joint Harbor Operations Center spotted a suspicious vessel entering American waters, leading to the arrest of three Yemeni citizens and five Mexican nationals. Illegal cross-border migration is a routine occurrence on San Diego’s shoreline – Customs and Border Protection reported a second, larger maritime trafficking incident the same day – but new arrivals from Yemen are not as common.
At about 0115 hours Friday, the Joint Harbor Operations Center – a cooperative monitoring center operated by CBP, the Coast Guard, the Navy and the harbor police – detected a suspicious boat entering U.S. waters. It alerted CBP agents, who spotted the vessel approaching in dense fog. The boat beached north of Coronado State Beach as agents approached.
Eight people got out of the boat and attempted to escape. All eight were apprehended and taken into custody, and the vessel was seized by CBP’s Air and Marine Operations branch. The suspects, all men between the ages of 19 and 36, were determined to have entered the United States illegally, according to the Times of San Diego.
Yemeni migrants may be uncommon on the southern U.S. border, but there are many looking for a new home. Since 2015, about three million refugees have fled Yemen’s civil war, which is sponsored by Iran (supporting the Houthi rebel faction) and Saudi Arabia and the UAE (supporting the Yemeni government, with arms and spare parts supplied by the United States). Virtually none have resettled in the U.S. due to steep reductions in the American refugee program, which was limited to 30,000 individuals in FY2019 and 18,000 in FY2020 – the lowest ceiling in the program’s history.