The first incident occurred during the mid-evening of September 18, when agents conducted a routine freight train check at the Hebbronville Station, about 55 miles east of Laredo. Fourteen illegal immigrants were discovered inside a grain hopper, a type of rail car that can be tightly sealed to keep its cargo dry, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a press release.
Several hours later, during the early morning hours of October 19, agents discovered another 13 individuals confined in a similar car. Agents used a ladder to rescue all 27 people from the enclosed containers.
All 27 individuals were determined to be from Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala and illegally entered the United States, the agency said. None of them were wearing any personal protective equipment (PPE) when they were found in the cramped quarters.
Border Patrol condemned the “train concealment” tactic used by human smugglers and illegal immigrants, warning of its danger to individual lives and the risk of spreading the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
“Without the aid of a ladder or other means of exiting the train cars, these people’s lives could have tragically ended if they had remained trapped for indefinite periods of time,” the agency said. “Additionally, by placing groups of people in these cramped spaces without the use of PPE, it heightens the risk of COVID-19 infection.”
In a similar incident last month, agents found 19 illegal immigrants trapped inside a locked grain hopper train car, including six of them attempting to hide on different parts of the train.
“Hebbronville station agents encountered another train case in which smuggled aliens were trapped inside a small confined space; this time completely locked in with no means of escape,” Laredo Sector Chief Patrol Agent Matthew J. Hudak said at that time in a press release. “These dangerous and potentially deadly tactics used by smugglers and illegal aliens continue to put the aliens and their rescuers at significant risk and significantly increase the potential spread of COVID-19.”
In 1987, A human smuggler locked 19 illegal immigrants inside a boxcar outside the town of Sierra Blanca, 90 miles southeast of El Paso on the Texas-Mexico border. All of them ended up suffocating to death in temperatures that reached above 120 degrees except one, who managed to punch a breathing hole in the boxcar’s floor using a railroad spike.