Human Smuggling Leading to Pursuits, Bailouts, Crashes, School Lockdowns

By Charlotte Cuthbertson
Charlotte Cuthbertson
Charlotte Cuthbertson
Senior Reporter
Charlotte Cuthbertson is a senior reporter with The Epoch Times who primarily covers border security and the opioid crisis.
June 2, 2021 Updated: June 7, 2021

UVALDE, Texas—A smuggler traveling at 140 mph races through town and crashes through a building in Uvalde, Texas. Another one drives onto a softball field in Crystal City, with children playing nearby.

In Del Rio, eight illegal aliens die after crashing head-on into another vehicle during a pursuit. Further east, in Lavaca County, a pickup truck carrying 18 to 20 illegal aliens crashes into a tree and bursts into flames.

In Kinney County, a smuggler fires an AK-47 out the vehicle window while fleeing from law enforcement, then passes the weapon to an illegal alien in the backseat to reload.

Many of the vehicles that smugglers are using to transport illegal aliens are stolen, and the unsuspecting owners won’t get them back—they’ve been used in the commission of a crime.

If illegal aliens make it past Border Patrol at the U.S.–Mexico border, their goal is to get north to a large city as quickly as possible.

The average number of illegal aliens that Border Patrol detects evading capture along the southern border is about 1,000 per day. The number of those who go undetected is impossible to estimate.

While Uvalde sits about 65 miles north of the border, many roads converge in the town and high-speed chases with vehicles loaded with illegal immigrants have become a daily occurrence. And lured by the promise of quick cash, many U.S. citizens are providing transportation.

“Chases—that’s something that we’ve never seen,” Uvalde County Sheriff Ruben Nolasco told The Epoch Times.

“It’s nonstop. Day after day, from sunup to sundown. Our deputies, our state troopers, our police officers, they’re just frustrated, they’re tired.”

Epoch Times Photo
Uvalde County Sheriff Ruben Nolasco in his office in Uvalde, Texas, on May 26, 2021. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)

Today’s illegal aliens are more violent than in previous years and will fight with law enforcement, Nolasco said. His deputies are also finding weapons in most of the smuggling vehicles they stop.

“And some of these traffickers have been found with 100-round drums [of ammunition] on their weapons,” he said.

“There’s always been a problem with [illegal] immigration, but nothing like this. We’re like a welcome mat. They’re going to come in here and scrape the mud off on us and then they start going up to the bigger cities. And then, they can blend in and you won’t have access to them.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott deployed more state troopers to the border region in March, and Nolasco said it has helped, although it also has created a bottleneck in his jail.

“It’s getting to the point that it’s filling up my jail, so that’s becoming a problem,” Nolasco said on May 26.

Abbott issued a state of disaster declaration on June 1, which includes a directive to the Texas Department of Public Safety to ramp up its efforts in enforcing federal and state laws regarding offenses such as criminal trespassing, smuggling, and human trafficking. He also asked the state’s Commission on Jail Standards to revise its standards to provide for more capacity in jails that have been operating under strict COVID-19 protocols.

Counties have been declaring local disasters since April 21.

Epoch Times Photo
Uvalde County sheriff’s deputies, along with Texas State Troopers and Border Patrol, apprehend illegal aliens being smuggled by vehicle in Uvalde County on April 3, 2021. (Uvalde County Sheriff’s Office)

48 School Lockdowns

Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin said local schools have been forced into frequent lockdowns in the past several months due to “bailouts” of illegal immigrants.

“We had a minimum of 48 different campus closures in Uvalde and five in Batesville during the spring semester. We had to hire off-duty officers for security at Anthon,” McLaughlin said the school superintendent told him. “They drive in and they bail out right by the schools.”

A bailout—now a common term in counties near the border—usually occurs when law enforcement is attempting to pull over a suspected smuggler with a load of illegal aliens. At some point, the smuggler slows or stops the vehicle and all the passengers scatter in different directions to avoid being caught.

“It’s sad that all those small communities, and our law enforcement, are having to deal with this because it’s eating up our budgets and we’re neglecting our regular work for our citizens,” McLaughlin told The Epoch Times.

“My other question is, while we’re all over here chasing this car doing this, what’s coming through that we’re not catching?”

Epoch Times Photo
Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin looks at a map of Uvalde at City Hall in Uvalde, Texas, on May 26, 2021. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)

The small town of Cotulla, 70 miles north of Laredo on I-35 toward San Antonio, is being affected so much by illegal alien smuggling that the local school district sent a warning letter to parents and guardians.

“Please be watchful of your children as they are playing outside, walking home from school, or generally out of the house,” the April 1 letter states. It’s signed by Cotulla Independent School District Superintendent Jack Seals and La Salle County Sheriff Anthony Zertuche.

“Both our communities and the rural areas of the county have experienced a great increase in law enforcement chases and ‘bailouts,’” the letter reads.

In Uvalde, Nolasco said children are scared.

“We have children that ride the school bus that live out in the country that are scared—they’re scared to go home. If mom’s working and dad’s working and there’s nobody there for them, they’re going to open the door to their residence and find an illegal immigrant,” he said.

“And mind you, you also have a lot of sex offenders that are coming into the United States—that’s not good.”

Border Patrol in the Del Rio Sector has apprehended 95 sex offenders so far this fiscal year, compared to six during the same period in fiscal 2020. Apprehension of criminals has topped 813, compared to 161 in the same period in fiscal 2020.

Epoch Times Photo
Uvalde County sheriff’s deputies apprehend illegal aliens being smuggled by vehicle in Uvalde County on April 17, 2021. (Uvalde County Sheriff’s Office)

Nolasco said his deputies have been involved in catching the same smuggler three times in a six-week period. The smuggler, an illegal alien, was caught after a high-speed chase that carried on for more than 50 miles, he said.

“He bails out and the passengers bail out. We finally catch up to him and check with Border Patrol, and Border Patrol runs his name and says, ‘Oh, yeah, he was just dealt with last week and he was released,'” he said.

“And here he is a week later. And that same thing happened about a month after that incident.”

Nolasco, who has 14 deputies to cover 1,600 square miles, said 95 percent of his deputies’ time is currently being spent on assisting Border Patrol with smugglers.

“It’s valuable time and resources that are being spent on a federal issue. These monies and time should be invested in our local citizens here in this town,” he said.

After being on the job for five months, the sheriff said he’s not expecting federal help.

“All I hear is that we don’t have a problem here at the border. No, I’m not going to get any help from the feds.”

The White House has said it’s focusing on the “root causes” of illegal immigration, particularly in the Central American countries of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

Charlotte Cuthbertson
Charlotte Cuthbertson
Senior Reporter
Charlotte Cuthbertson is a senior reporter with The Epoch Times who primarily covers border security and the opioid crisis.