50 Migrants Found in California Freight Trains near Border

El Centro Sector Border Patrol agents find migrants on two rail cars near the California border with Mexico. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection)
U.S. Customs and Border Protection

El Centro Sector Border Patrol agents in Niland, California, discovered a group of migrants aboard a northbound freight train attempting to bypass the established highway checkpoint. In one event, agents found 26 migrants hiding in the rail cars. Information provided by the group led to the eventual arrest of an additional 16.

The events unfolded on Tuesday when Border Patrol agents searched the train near the Border Patrol checkpoint on California Route 111 north of El Centro, California. The highway checkpoint is located on a main thoroughfare to the Los Angeles area. The rail line parallels the highway and travels into Los Angeles as well. As the agents searched the train, they located 26 migrants hiding in rail cars.

As the agents conducted interviews with the migrants, they were told another group was still on board the train that departed shortly after their arrest. Border Patrol agents notified the train conductor who stopped the train in Indio, California, nearly 60 miles away. Border Patrol agents in Indio boarded the freight train and continued the search.

While conducting a search of the rail cars, agents found an additional 16 migrants. The migrants, 42 in total, were taken to Border Patrol facilities in the El Centro Sector to await processing and a final disposition to their cases.

The discovery of migrants hidden on freight trains is a near-daily occurrence. The migrants are found near the border and sometimes miles away during inspections by Border Patrol agents and local law enforcement officials. Migrants are increasingly finding unique and frequently dangerous places to hide on the numerous freight trains leaving the border region for the interior of the United States.

Although financially the trains provide an inexpensive means of travel, their use by the migrants is not without costs. The freight trains leaving the border area are unforgiving to the migrants when accidents do occur.

In October, members of a Honduran migrant family suffered severe injuries after falling from a moving freight train near Eagle Pass, Texas. Three of the four family members lost limbs in the incident. In that incident, a 32-year-old man’s arm was severed above the right wrist after the fall. His one-year-old child’s finger was severed during the incident and his wife suffered a leg amputation as well.

Finding the migrants and removing them from the train is proving a difficult task as the surge of migrant traffic continues along the southwest border. As agents process and provide care for thousands of migrants entering the United States daily, fewer are left to actively patrol the border and search the trains. More than 1.9 million migrants were arrested by the Border Patrol in 2021 according to an agency source.

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.



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