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March 2011    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 37, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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The Latest Smuggling Device: Scuba Scooters

from the March, 2011 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

A wetsuit-clad man and a teenager were arrested in Imperial Beach, CA, on February 3 after allegedly swimming around the U.S./Mexico international border with the aid of two diver-propulsion vehicles. The two men became the object of Border Patrol's attention when one of its helicopters reportedly spotted them walking north along the beach at 8:45 p.m., with scuba scooters in hand. When land-based Border Patrol agents approached, the two attempted to conceal themselves by lying down and covering themselves with sand. After interviewing the duo, the agents found them to be Mexican nationals who allegedly used the devices to illegally enter the U.S. Because the men didn't have any scuba gear, the agents suspect they didn't attempt the crossing underwater. The scuba scooters were confiscated.

Using scuba scooters to help swim around the border fence may seem odd, but when drug cartels charge prospective illegal immigrants between $1,500 and $4,000 to cross the border - and possibly keep them locked up while extorting more money from their relatives - an entry-level scuba scooter, starting at $700, could be an attractive alternative. Typically, a scuba scooter will pull one along at 3 to 4 m.p.h. for at least an hour, plenty of time to pull you around the partly submerged fence between Tijuana and Imperial Beach.

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