- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 22, 2007

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers conducting security inspections at the Calexico, Calif., port of entry arrested a Mexican national after finding an illegal Chinese alien hidden in the engine compartment of the vehicle he was driving into the United States.

The failed entry, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials said, was the second at the Calexico port in less than a week in which a smuggler sought to bring a Chinese national into the United States in the same manner and the third this month at the port involving an attempt to smuggle a Chinese migrant into the country.

CBP officials offered no theory on why Chinese nationals had focused on the Calexico port of entry.

The driver, identified only as a 27-year-old Mexican citizen, presented a valid border crossing card at the downtown port of entry but was referred during the Feb. 16 incident to a secondary inspection area after CBP officers said he appeared to be nervous.

During that inspection, CBP spokesman Vincent E. Bond said, officers discovered what appeared to be a piece of wood under the front bumper and, after removing the front grill, found a woman lying in a non-factory compartment forward of the engine. He said the officers opened the compartment and eventually freed the woman.

Mr. Bond said the woman, who was not identified, was treated by emergency medical service personnel and transported to a medical facility, where she later was released to the custody of CBP officers. He said the woman, a citizen of the People’s Republic of China, will be held as a material witness in government’s pending prosecution of the Mexican national on charges of alien smuggling.

The driver was transported to the Imperial County, Calif., jail to await court hearings. The vehicle, a 1991 Mercury Grand Marquis, was seized by CBP.

On Feb. 15, Mr. Bond said, CBP officers at the Calexico downtown port of entry discovered two Chinese men hidden within the engine compartment of a Chevrolet pickup truck after it entered the United States. The driver, a 28-year-old Mexican national who resides in Brawley, Calif., also was arrested.

On Feb. 3, he said, CBP officers arrested a 53-year-old U.S. citizen from Desert Hot Springs, Calif., after he attempted to enter the United States with a 40-year-old Chinese man smuggled in the dashboard of a 1999 Mercury Sable. Officers said they had to tear apart the dashboard to free the man.

Since the start of fiscal 2007 on Oct. 1, Mr. Bond said, CBP officers at the downtown Calexico port of entry have apprehended more than 1,735 illegal aliens, an increase of almost 15 percent over the same period last year. Apprehensions of migrants making false claims of U.S. citizenship with documents and oral statements grew 49 percent and 16 percent, respectively.

Mr. Bond said narcotics seizures at the downtown port also skyrocketed since Oct. 1. He said the amount of marijuana seized jumped 31 percent to 7,300 pounds; cocaine burgeoned over 500 percent to 1,623 pounds; and methamphetamines grew 42 percent to 132 pounds.

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