Skip to comments.Criminals Use Semis to Smuggle in Illegal Aliens
Posted on 08/25/2002 4:52:11 PM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
MCALLEN, Texas Border Patrol agents are finding an increasing number of semi-trailer trucks loaded with illegal aliens, officials said Thursday. In the latest case, a truck driver was arrested Wednesday after 21 illegal aliens were found hidden in an unventilated trailer without water. Last month, two Mexicans were found dead in the back of an overheated trailer near Dallas.
Border Patrol agent Xavier Rios said cases involving trailers this year have already surpassed the number for all of 2001 in the McAllen sector, which covers much of south Texas. Agents found 711 illegal aliens in 36 trailers last year, but 699 have already been found this year in 42 trailers.
Rios said agents are not sure why trailer smuggling is increasing so rapidly, but there are more trucks on the road in South Texas because of the North American Free Trade Agreement. He said agents are on alert to watch trailers closely for human cargo.
"Fortunately we haven't experienced any tragedies like they have in Dallas," he said.
None of the 21 illegal aliens, ages 18 to 49, found Wednesday at the Falfurrias checkpoint needed medical attention. They had been loaded only a few hours earlier, and that might have saved them, Rios said.
The two illegal aliens who died in the truck north of Dallas July 27 had been locked in the trailer for 12 hours with no water or ventilation. A few hours earlier about 30 other illegal aliens had broken out of the overheated trailer at a truck stop in Dallas.
The truck drivers in the Dallas case and seven other defendents allegedly involved in the smuggling were indicted last week on federal charges of racketeering, alien harboring and alien transporting. The two drivers are also facing state murder charges in Dallas County.
In the Falfurrias case, Ruperto G. Gomez Jr., a 33-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen from McAllen, was charged with transporting illegal aliens. If convicted of this felony, he could face five years in prison and a $5,000 fine for each illegal alien.
When Gomez was stopped at the checkpoint, about 60 miles north of McAllen, he told agents his trailer was empty, but a check by a search dog detected either drugs or humans were inside the trailer, leading to the discovery.
Rios said the illegal aliens told agents they had paid a guide $500 to help them cross the Rio Grande, and they had been loaded on the truck about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday. They were discovered about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Border Patrol checkpoint.
Criminals often pay so-called "coyotes" as much as $2,000 to get them across the border to major U.S. cities and sometimes pay the fee when they get a job, according to Immigration and Naturalization officials.
In other major incidents this summer, 73 illegal aliens were found in early August hidden in a trailer stopped at the Sarita checkpoint about 60 miles north of Brownsville, and about 32 illegal aliens were found July 31 in a trailer at San Antonio.