EDINBURG, Texas — Border Patrol officials are looking to expose the cruel human smugglers believed to behind many of the abuses that illegal immigrants go through. They are making it personal by posting their photos.
A new effort kicked off in the Rio Grande Valley Sector forced a lowly cartel employee named Jose Guadalupe Valerio Lavansate to run away from South Texas to go hide in Mexico. The man is believed to be a low level member of the Reynosa based faction of the Gulf Cartel. In the wanted photographs used by authorities to identify the man, Valerio is wearing a white and black t-shirts with the CDG logo, which stands for Gulf Cartel.
Valerio is just one of four individuals that have been directly affected by a new strategy called “Se Busca” (Spanish for wanted). The media campaign is aimed at publicly identifying and exposing individuals directly involved with human smuggling in the RGV, said Border Patrol RGV Division Chief J.R. Villarreal during an exclusive interview with Breitbart Texas.
Instead of focusing on high profile criminals or masterminds who are often times rather cautious about being seen, the strategy is aimed at exposing the individuals who are tied directly with the daily operations of the human smuggling organization. Working with the agency’s intelligence unit, Border Patrol placed a series of large billboards on the major checkpoints heading north from the Rio Grande Valley and east toward the beach. Those signs list 10 local human smugglers, foot guides, or the ones who run the human stash houses. Those on the wanted signs that have been identified as playing an active role in the business and have outstanding warrants for their arrest, Villarreal said.
The campaign comes at a time when, as Breitbart Texas previously reported, drug cartels have been playing an big role in the human smuggling process victimizing illegal immigrants every step of the way. Since 2013, human smugglers shifted their routes bringing hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants through the Rio Grande Valley. The move set off a humanitarian crisis in 2014 when Homeland Security was unable to properly house the increasing number of detainees. During that summer, the Gulf Cartel is believed to have made about $38 million in human smuggling, Breitbart Texas reported.
According to Villarreal, illegal immigrants are held in homes with little food or water, and in inhumane conditions that weaken them. They are then forced take a dangerous hike through the brush. In the stash houses, immigrants are treated as cargo and often times held for ransom.
In each of the major busts, agents learned that at least one of the women had been sexually assaulted, Villarreal said.
“These victims have gone through traumatic experiences and usually are reluctant to come forward and report what happened,” he said. “We believe these crimes are largely unreported.”
The smugglers identified in this initiative are ruthless, dangerous and must be removed from our communities,” says RGV Sector Chief Manuel Padilla, Jr. “The ‘Se Busca” initiative enables all of us, as residents of the Rio Grande Valley, to take an active role in ending the atrocities committed by these criminals.”
The new strategy appears to be have had an effect, in over a month since the start of Se Busca, authorities have managed to arrest three individuals from intelligence gathered by callers. The strategy also forced Valerio to flee the country in an effort to avoid capture.
“This sent a message to the individuals and the human smuggling organizations,” Villarreal said. “We know who you are and we are looking for you.”
Luis Miguel Melchor Zagaon had been acting as a foot guide for cartel smugglers prior to being exposed and arrested. His job, according to court records obtained by Breitbart Texas, dealt with leading illegal immigrants through the brush around the U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint near Falfurrias. Authorities arrested him on June 7; he remains in federal custody.
Authorities arrested Sergio Gutierrez Martinez in May, soon after the start of the Se Busca campaign. Martinez had a long history of federal arrests on various charges. He remains in custody on federal charges.
Abigail Del Angel Garcia had entered the country illegally from Mexico and was working with a human smuggling organization when agents arrested her in early May. The woman had previously been arrested four other times for being in the country illegally.