A Texas sheriff ordered the arrest of an 18-wheeler driver allegedly found smuggling 57 migrants from the Rio Grande Valley. Border Patrol agents made the discovery of the human cargo loaded in the back of a locked tractor-trailer at an inspection checkpoint 80 miles from the Mexican border.
Rio Grande Valley Sector agents assigned to the Falfurrias Border Patrol Checkpoint discovered 57 migrants locked in the trailer of an 18-wheeler. After federal authorities declined to prosecute the smuggler, Brooks County Sheriff Benny Martinez ordered his deputies to arrest the suspected smuggler on state charges of human smuggling.
“This is too big a case to let slide,” Sheriff Martinez told Breitbart Texas Sunday evening. “Fifty-seven people crammed in the back of an 18-wheeler. This is how people get killed.”
Martinez said the driver claimed he did not know the 57 were in the back of his trailer. However, evidence shows the trailer was locked from the outside.
The suspect is reported to have claimed he was asked to transport a load of cargo through the Border Patrol checkpoint to Houston without any knowledge of the contents.
“It is highly doubtful the driver did not know they were back there,” the sheriff stated. “The load would have been very light as there were just a couple of pallets of produce. The rest of the truck contained the 57 migrants.”
Martinez said the driver claimed he was instructed to deliver the trailer to Houston and then call a number and let them know he dropped the load.
On Monday morning, Martinez learned that special agents from Homeland Security Investigations would be coming to his jail to interview the suspect.
It is not known if the government shutdown played any role in the initial decision by federal authorities to not prosecute the case.
The 57 migrants have been screened by Border Patrol agents and are currently being detained, the sheriff explained.
The driver remains in the Brooks County jail pending a hearing before a Texas district court judge on state charges relating to human smuggling. Officials identified the suspect as 38-year-old Ramiro Ibis Garza-Ceja. He is a Mexican national who is legally in the U.S. He was reportedly driving the tractor-trailer with a Class B Texas Driver License.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed the state’s new human smuggling law into effect in June 2015, Breitbart Texas reported. House Bill 10, authored by Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) and sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston), “toughens and helps Texas crackdown even more on the horrific crime of human trafficking,” the Governor said during the bill signing ceremony.
Harris County authorities told Abbott at the time that if one piece of this legislation passed, the part that focuses on a crackdown on human smugglers, it could lead to the jailing of 3,000 in the county alone.