Head south of the Orange County border on the 5 freeway, and you quickly encounter people in one of two kinds of uniforms: those of U.S. Border Patrol officials (think San Clemente checkpoint) and those of the U.S. Marines Corps (think Camp Pendleton).
People in both kinds of uniforms met March 14 at the Campo border checkpoint east of San Diego. The thing is, those in the Marine fatigues were illegal immigrants (although the Border Patrol would be advised to start checking the papers of their own from now on).
The Los Angeles Times has the scoop.
A white van with a U.S. government license plate rolled through the checkpoint. Inside were 15 people in Marine uniforms. Canvas duffel bags were loaded behind the backseat.
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For reasons the Border Patrol did not disclose, the van was not waved through, but rather sent to a secondary spot. It was there that agents discovered all was not what it seemed. Authorities say 13 of the passengers were undocumented and two were U.S. citizens.
The latter pair was arrested on suspicion of alien smuggling. All but three of the immigrants were returned to Mexico. The trio was kept in federal lockup pending hearings at which they will be asked to testify as witnesses against the alleged coyotes.
The Border Patrol has no idea how the fake jarheads obtained the military uniforms and a U.S. government license plate with an altered number. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service has been enlisted to help figure that out.
It could have been much worse for those busted: If they'd been misdirected to Pendleton, they could have been forced to do push-ups or march for miles--or shipped off to Libya.