US Border Patrol agents were notified shortly before midnight Friday that a group of about 70 people were trying to swim around the barrier between Tijuana, Mexico, and the beach at Border Field State Park in San Diego, US Customs and Border Protection said in a news release.
The woman, believed to be part of that group, was found unresponsive and could not be revived, the agency said. The San Diego Medical Examiner took custody of her body after responding to the area.
“This is yet another example of the ruthless tactics smuggling organizations use to bolster their power and profits.” San Diego Sector’s Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke said in the written statement. “We will work tirelessly to pursue and bring to justice those responsible for this tragedy.”
The agency said it apprehended 36 Mexican citizens who swam across the border, including 13 who were rescued from the water by the US Coast Guard. All 36 were taken to a Border Patrol station for processing.
Fiscal year 2021, which ended September 30, saw more migrant deaths on the US southern border than in any prior year on record, according to data released Thursday by US Border Patrol. There were 557 Southwest border deaths during that fiscal year. That’s up from 254 deaths in fiscal year 2020 and 300 deaths in 2019 — marking a significant increase in a 30-record year for border crossings. The agency data on deaths dates to 1998.
But the numbers don’t represent all migrant border deaths because state and local agencies may recover bodies without involving Border Patrol — meaning the number of deaths is likely higher.
A majority of migrant border deaths have been related to heat exposure, according to the agency. Migrants often face dangerous terrain and can get lost as they try to make their way to the US.
Several factors led to the increase in recorded deaths, including more people crossing the border and an increased effort by the agency to work with law enforcement partners to identify and document cases.
CNN’s Andy Rose and Geneva Sands contributed to this report.