Human Smuggling in Tractor-Trailers Endangers Lives in South Texas, Say Feds

Laredo North Station Border Patrol agents apprehend 54 illegal aliens, including two juveniles, locked in a tractor-trailer in South Texas. (Photo: U.S. Border Patrol/Laredo Sector)
Photo: U.S. Border Patrol/Laredo Sector

The chief of the U.S. Border Patrol reported that cartel-connected human smugglers are increasing the use of tractor-trailers in South Texas to move their “cargo.” The tactic puts the victims at great risk, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The risk posed by these tractor-trailer loads increases dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic. In recent weeks, our agents have discovered more than 492 people concealed in these dangerous and life-threatening conditions,” said Rodney Scott, Chief of the United States Border Patrol. The nation’s top Border Patrol agent referenced the number of migrants encountered by Rio Grande Valley and Laredo Sector agents in tractor-trailer cases since March 21.

Officials report that the migrants pay between $6,000 and $12,000 each to be smuggled into the United States via tractor-trailer rigs. The risky travel put the migrants in danger of serious injury or even death in the event of a crash or abandonment by their smugglers who have no regard for their lives, health, or safety.

Border Patrol officials reminded the public of the July 2017 incident where ten people died and another 39 were hospitalized after human smugglers locked them in a trailer in a Walmart parking lot in San Antonio. The driver of the rig eventually pleaded guilty to the human smuggling related deaths of the ten migrants, Breitbart Texas reported.

The interior immigration checkpoints, particularly the Interstate 35 checkpoint in the Laredo Sector and the Falfurrias and Javier Vega, Jr. checkpoints in the Rio Grande Valley Sector have become hotspots for the interdiction of these dangerous smuggling attempts.

“On May 11, Border Patrol agents encountered 49 aliens concealed in a tractor-trailer at the Interstate 35 checkpoint north of Laredo, Texas,” Border Patrol officials reported. “At the time of the encounter, the trailer was locked, and the passengers had no safety restraints and no means of escape.”

Chief Scott added, “This smuggling tactic is putting lives at risk—the lives of the migrants, our agents, and the American public—all for the sake of profit.”

“Migrants attempting the dangerous journey to illegally enter the United States often travel without access to proper medical care and personal protective equipment to protect themselves and others, all while traveling through multiple countries before reaching the United States,” Border Patrol officials explained. “The smugglers often force the migrants into cramped compartments and unsanitary stash houses along the journey.”

The Border Patrol increased its intelligence gathering and investigative capabilities to combat the increasing number of tractor-trailer smuggling incidents.

During an interview in April with Laredo Sector Chief Patrol Agent Felix Chavez, the chief explained that the trafficking of migrants in tractor-trailers is on the increase in his sector. The rescue of migrants being smuggled in vehicles, including tractor-trailers increased from 669 during the first seven months of FY2019 to 1,071 during the same period this year.

This fiscal year, human smugglers began utilizing tractor-trailers at a higher rate. The chief said they have seen a 38 percent increase in the number of tractor-trailer human smuggling incidents over last year.

Chavez said the Laredo Sector is unique from most other Border Patrol sectors in that migrants crossing the border in this area are not looking to surrender to the first available agent. Rather, they are being smuggled in these types of events and being marched around checkpoints through the dangerous ranchlands of the region.

“We are inches away from the heat of summer,” he explained. “Crossing the river here is very dangerous as the lake continues to release water creating deadly currents. The desert-like ranches in this sector are dangerous and present a great risk for injury or death to the migrants being smuggled around checkpoints. Then, add the dangers of COVID-19 on top of all of that.”

Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior news contributor for the Breitbart Texas-Border team. He is an original member of the Breitbart Texas team. Price is a regular panelist on Fox 26 Houston’s What’s Your Point? Sunday-morning talk show. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX and Facebook.

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