U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents disrupted two human smuggling operations near the Texas border last week, resulting in the arrest of over 200 illegal aliens in two tractor-trailers, the agency said.
The federal law enforcement agency said in news release on Dec. 7 that Border Patrol agents from two checkpoints near Laredo, Texas, thwarted the smuggling attempts and discovered 218 individuals from the countries of Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and Nicaragua.
On the evening of Dec. 4, CBP agents—assisted by a service canine—stopped a tractor-trailer approaching the checkpoint west of Freer, Texas, for an immigration inspection, and discovered 138 individuals tightly concealed inside the trailer. All individuals were found to be illegally present in the United States.
Border Patrol agents arrested the individuals, along with the driver—a U.S. citizen. They were taken into custody pending investigation.
In a second incident on the evening of Dec. 5, CBP agents attempted to stop a tractor-trailer as it approached the I-35 checkpoint. However, the driver failed to stop at the primary inspection point, although they eventually complied with agents’ commands.
A total of 80 individuals were found crammed inside the tractor-trailer, and they were placed under arrest pending investigation by Homeland Security Investigation.
The vehicle was seized by U.S. Border Patrol.
CBP said in the release that at the time of arrest, most of the 218 individuals were not wearing any personal protective equipment (PPE) despite being confined in close quarters in the trailers.
Laredo Sector Chief Patrol Agent Matthew Hudak said in a statement that the two incidents illustrate the dangerous amount of human smuggling that occurs using large commercial vehicles.
“These vehicles are not made to carry people, putting the aliens at risk of life threatening injury and offer no protection from COVID-19 or other infectious diseases,” he said.
All of the individuals were medically evaluated and none were found to require medical attention, CBP said.
Earlier this year, CBP announced it had discovered the longest cross-border smuggling tunnel ever found along the southwestern U.S.-Mexico border, after a “challenging” multi-year operation.
CBP said in a news release on Jan. 29 that the illicit cross-border tunnel was first discovered in August 2019 and stretched more than three-quarters of a mile from an industrial site in Tijuana, Mexico, to the San Diego area.
At around five and a half feet tall and two feet wide, the tunnel featured an extensive rail and cart system, forced air ventilation, high voltage electrical cables and panels, an elevator at the tunnel entrance, and an elaborate drainage system.
President Donald Trump has in recent years ramped up efforts to address warnings from the CBP about the orchestrated efforts by human smugglers to bring individuals into the United States.
At the beginning of last year, the Trump administration implemented Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), more commonly known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy, in an attempt to curb the flow of illegal immigrants and prevent fraudulent or nonmeritorious refugee cases. The policy sends migrants back to Mexico while they wait for a court to process their asylum claims.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a report assessing the effectiveness of the MPP (pdf) in October 2019, which found the policy had demonstrated operational effectiveness by reducing the number of illegal immigrant apprehensions and restoring integrity to the immigration system.
Janita Kan contributed to this report.