CBP photo from the El Centro operation.

Border Patrol Intercept Human Smuggling Attempts as Worrying Trend Continues

Despite the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic and the increasing summer heat, smugglers continue to endanger the lives of individuals they exploit and the health and safety of U.S. citizens.  

In what continues to be a part of a troubling trend, U.S. Border Patrol agents at the Interstate 35 (I-35) Border Patrol checkpoint north of Laredo have halted another sizable human smuggling attempt involving a commercial vehicle.

The incident transpired late during the evening of August 5, when a tractor hauling a trailer approached the I-35 checkpoint and a service canine alerted to the trailer. A search of the vehicle led agents to discover 53 individuals inside the refrigerated trailer.  

All of the individuals were illegally present in the United States and from the countries of Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. The individuals and the driver, a U.S. citizen, were taken into custody pending investigation. The case was turned over to Special Agents of Homeland Security Investigations for further investigation and prosecution.  The tractor and trailer were seized by the U.S. Border Patrol. 

The same day, U.S. Border Patrol agents stopped multiple human smuggling attempts throughout the Rio Grande Valley Sector.

McAllen agents working near Sullivan City, Texas, attempted to conduct a traffic stop on  a black Dodge pickup traveling at a high rate of speed away from the Rio Grande. Agents requested assistance from local law enforcement and within minutes a Sullivan City Police Officer arrived and took over the pursuit. The vehicle continued traveling for a short distance before coming to a stop. Agents and officers approached the vehicle and identified the driver as a juvenile United States citizen. Furthermore, it was discovered the juvenile had picked up six Mexican nationals illegally present in the United States. All the subjects were transported to the station for processing.

Also on August 5, Rio Grande Valley agents traveling along Texas Farm to Market Road 681 near McCook, Texas, observed a Chevrolet pickup drive off the road and smash through a ranch fence. As agents responded to the wreck, they observed multiple subjects exit the pickup and run into the nearby brush. After a search of the immediate area, agents arrested five illegal aliens.

That night, agents working along U.S. Highway 281 conducted a vehicle stop on a Chevrolet Tahoe near San Manuel, Texas. During the interview, agents determined the driver was a United States citizen traveling with three Mexican nationals who were illegally present in the United States. 

And on August 7, El Centro Sector Border Patrol agents assigned to the El Centro station arrested three U. S. citizens for smuggling 52 illegal aliens.

The incident occurred at approximately 5:08 a.m., when Remote Video Surveillance System (RVSS) operators reported a stake bed truck and van suspected of alien smuggling near the border wall west of Mount Signal Road. Agents responded to the location and observed the stake bed truck and van traveling away from the border to Highway 98.  Agents immediately conducted a vehicle stop on the stake truck on Mount Signal Road and advised other agents that the van continued eastbound on Highway 98. 

Agents approached the driver of the stake truck and conducted an interview. The driver, a 22 year-old male U.S. citizen admitted to having illegal aliens in the rear cargo area of the truck. Agents searched the truck and discovered 37 subjects attempting to conceal themselves under a black tarp in the bed of the truck. The smuggled group consisted of 36 adult Mexican nationals and one adult Guatemalan national illegally present in the United States. 

Moments later, agents encountered the van traveling eastbound on Highway 98 and performed a vehicle stop on the van. Agents approached the driver and front seat passenger and determined both to be U. S. citizens.  Further inspection of the vehicle revealed 15 subjects in the back of the van. Agents interviewed the occupants and determined all to be adult Mexican nationals illegally present in the United States.

The three U. S. citizens and 52 illegal aliens, consisting of 35 men and 17 women between the ages of 18 and 52 were placed under arrest and were transported to the El Centro station for further processing.

Both the stake truck driver and van driver are being presented for criminal prosecution for Alien Smuggling.  All smuggled illegal aliens found in the operation are being held in federal custody pending further processing.

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Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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