October 2, 2023
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Anti-smuggling program gets $110 million in federal funds


An anti-narcotic and human trafficking effort, Operation Stonegarden, received $110 million in funding on July 24 to help curb the use of so-called “panga” boats for smuggling drugs and people onto the Central Coast.

U.S. Representative Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, announced the appropriation of funds through fiscal year 2022 via the Department of Homeland Security’s Authorization Bill. He had earlier written to the House Appropriations subcommittee requesting full funding of the program.

“This is particularly important in my district along the Central Coast of California where we have seen an increase in small-craft smuggling of narcotics and, in some cases humans, using traditional Mexican fishing boats called ‘pangas,’” Carbajal wrote in his letter, dated April 4.

In addition to an estimated one ton of marijuana or methamphetamine brought in by each boat, he added that local law enforcement officials have linked them to the smuggling of undocumented immigrants and human trafficking victims.

“It is critical that our coast is secure from drug and human trafficking and I’m pleased to see federal resources provided for this effort in Santa Barbara County,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said in a news release.

The program received $55 million for the fiscal year 2016. Funds can be used by border states and territories, including those with international water borders, to coordinate joint efforts between departments, pay overtime costs and reimburse for things like travel, lodging and vehicle maintenance.

“This program helps provide funding to support local law enforcement in protecting our borders and keeping our community safe,” San Luis Obispo County Sherriff Ian Parkinson said in a news release. “The funding was in jeopardy of being cut and it took (Carbajal’s) effort and support to keep it in the Federal budget.”

The news comes in the wake of an investigation into a human trafficking attempt in San Antonio Texas July 23 that resulted in the deaths of at least nine people and the hospitalization of several others.

• Contact Marissa Nall at mnall@pacbiztimes.com.