Border Patrol agents in California discovered 26 illegal immigrants who were allegedly being smuggled into the United States in the back of a tractor-trailer and arrested the driver after he handed them a fake driver’s license.
A man driving a tractor-trailer who was driving to a Border Patrol checkpoint was stopped and agents carried out an immigration check. A canine detection team alerted agents to the rear of the trailer, according to a Feb. 13 news release from the agency.
Upon inspection, agents found 26 undocumented immigrants sitting inside the trailer, the release stated.
“The immigrants were locked inside the trailer with no safety restraints and with no way to extricate themselves from the inside. Agents safely removed all the occupants,” said officials.
The truck driver, who wasn’t identified, was arrested for smuggling illegal immigrants and it was discovered that a California driver’s license that he presented to agents was actually an “imposter document,” according to the release. “The driver was determined to be a Mexican national illegally present in the United States.”
The 26 undocumented immigrants, which included male and female juveniles, were also detained.
“The undocumented immigrants were locked and trapped inside this tracker-trailer in below 45-degree weather with no safety restraints,” said Chief Patrol Agent Gloria I. Chavez in the release.
These passengers were between the ages of 16 and 56, Border Patrol agent Carlos Pitones told the Los Angeles Times.
“The driver will face criminal proceedings, and the smuggled immigrants will be processed in a case-by-case basis,” Pitones told the paper.
The incident comes just days after three Mexican women died after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and apparently got lost in California’s Laguna Mountains during a snowstorm.
“Due to the inclement weather all rescue efforts were fruitless and all lifesaving attempts were exhausted,” said the border agency, adding that the three women ultimately succumbed to their injuries after they were discovered. Two men who were with the women were arrested for illegally entering the United States.
Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke said their deaths could have been easily avoided.
“We have said it many times, do not place your life or the lives of your loved ones in the hands of ruthless smugglers,” he said a Border Patrol news release. “I am proud of the heroic efforts that these agents and our partners made to locate and provide aid to those in need. Our agents also put their own lives at risk traversing the dangerous routes that these criminal organizations smuggle people through in an attempt to avoid apprehension.”