Presidio County Sheriff’s deputies discovered 16 migrants abandoned by their smuggler on a winding desert road, miles from Casa Piedra, Texas, on Tuesday. The group was left behind after the smuggler damaged a tire.
Deputies responded to the scene and discovered the migrants near the disabled vehicle. Police officers from Presidio drove an hour to assist. The smuggler was nowhere to be found and authorities believe he may have returned to Mexico with the aid of accomplices.
Casa Piedra, now a ghost town, was once a community near Big Bend National Park in far west Texas. The community was abandoned after World War II and is owned by a local family that has lived in the area for more than a century. There are no paved roads leading to Casa Piedra and traversing the area can be difficult.
In this case, the smuggler chose to transport the migrants away from the border by vehicle rather than march for days to Marfa, Texas. Other than an artesian well in Casa Piedra, water is scarce and Marfa is 40 miles to the north.
The gravel roads in the area proved too much for the overloaded vehicle and led to a tire blowout. After locating the vehicle, responding deputies detained the migrants and ultimately turned them over to Border Patrol.
Migrant crossings in the area have doubled in the first two months of the fiscal year when compared to the same time frame over the prior year. Human smugglers are taking advantage of the increase in migrants attempting to cross the inhospitable terrain. The remoteness has forced smugglers to create new tactics. In one instance less than a week ago, Presidio County Sheriff’s deputies located a downed aircraft attempting to smuggle five migrants. Several of the migrants sustained serious injuries in the crash, including the pilot. A manhunt is underway to find the pilot. Authorities believe he may have fled to Mexico.
Randy Clark is a 32-year veteran of the United States Border Patrol. Prior to his retirement, he served as the Division Chief for Law Enforcement Operations, directing operations for nine Border Patrol Stations within the Del Rio, Texas, Sector. Follow him on Twitter @RandyClarkBBTX