The passengers said they began their voyage Tuesday night from Tijuana after making arrangements with smugglers.
The group aboard the boat had safely come ashore near El Segundo around 6:45 a.m. Wednesday and were attempting to push the boat back to water when witnesses called 911.
Twenty people were arrested and turned over to an immigration processing center in San Clemente.
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Aboard the boat were 15 Mexican nationals, including a 14-year-old boy and three women, along with a man from El Salvador and a Chinese woman.
According to a court affidavit filed by the Sheriff's Department, fourteen of the men and women, many of whom had paid as much as $8,500 for a seat on the boat, had prior offenses in the United States, ranging from burglary, spousal abuse, drug possession, animal cruelty, attempted murder and murder.
One woman, whose husband lives in Palmdale, told authorities she paid $7,000 plus a life vest fee to board the boat.
Authorities say small smuggling boats are often found in the San Diego area, but increased border security has prompted some to try entering the country father north.
Investigators say the group of passengers were headed to safe houses in Los Angeles and the Inland Empire, and would have been kept there by smugglers until their dues were paid.
The captain of the boat has been identified as 54-year-old Esteban Sanchez-Hernandez.
Sanchez-Hernandez, along with two other men, were charged with conspiracy to bring immigrants to the U.S.
No drugs were found on board the boat.