Tractor-Trailer Discovered in Texas Carrying 17 Undocumented Immigrants

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are currently investigating the links between this case and the two others that have happened in recent weeks.

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Another truck was discovered Sunday afternoon in South Texas carrying 17 undocumented immigrants across the U.S. border.

This truck was transporting immigrants from many places like Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Romania. All those that were found in the trailer were treated at the scene, and none required further medical attention.

Edinburg Assistant Police Chief Oscar Trevino told KGBT-TV that the immigrants were locked inside the truck in Edinburg, Texas for at least 8 hours before being found.

How They Were Discovered

A tipster from Mexico told dispatchers that they had a relative trapped inside a hot trailer, so it was only a matter of time until officials discovered the trailer. The truck was only 20 miles from the border of Mexico when found.

When police arrived on the scene they began knocking on the side of each truck. The truck containing the immigrants knocked back.

Ramiro Provencio, a witness on the scene, frequents the Flying J gas station where the immigrants were discovered. He told Kens 5 Eyewitness News, that a man and woman with Cuban accents approached him to ask if he knew a mechanic in the area that could fix the broken refrigerating unit inside the trailer.

These two individuals were later revealed to be the drivers of the truck.

Provencio explained, “When I do the trailer washouts, and that’s with the door open, it’s still really hot in there.”

Edinburg police supplied the immigrants battling to regain their strength with pizza and water. The immigrants were then divided into groups, marked with color-coded tape, and transported from the scene.

The two drivers of the truck were arrested on the scene, but they have yet to be convicted.

The Aftermath

ICE acting director Thomas D. Homan responded to this latest incident with a written statement:

“In just a few weeks since the tragedy in San Antonio that claimed the lives of 10 aliens during their transport in a tractor trailer by a criminal smuggling operation, we’ve seen three more of these cases in the same area. While any additional loss of life has been avoided thus far, these cases underscore the urgent need to remove pull factors like sanctuary policies that only perpetuate the vicious human smuggling cycle. We will not let up in our efforts to disrupt and dismantle the illicit pathways used by transnational criminal organizations and human smuggling facilitators.”

Sanctuary policies are the main contributing factor to which Homan attributes the increase in human transportation via tractor-trailer across the border. He vows to disrupt the obvious pathways immigrants are using to cross the border.

Third Smuggling Case in South Texas in Three Weeks

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are currently investigating the links between this case and the two others that have happened in recent weeks. The Zeta Drug Cartel is believed to be involved.

According to ICE, this is the third incident of this kind to happen in this area in the last three weeks. One incident resulted in 10 deaths and even more hospitalized. 

On Sunday, July 23rd, approximately 90 immigrants were trapped inside a tractor-trailer traveling towards San Antonio. Eight passengers were dead at the scene, 2 later died in the hospital, and the remainder were in critical condition.

This trailer was discovered in a Walmart parking lot. The driver, James Matthew Bradley, is being held responsible for the 10 lives lost. He claims to have no knowledge of the passengers inside the truck; however, when he did discover them – and at least one passenger dead – he did not call the police.

James Matthew Bradley Jr could face life in prison or the death penalty for the charges against him.

Survivor Lara Vega, recounted his reasoning for making this dangerous trip saying, “There is no work [in Aquacalientes]. It’s hard over there, so then one makes decisions.”

Read more about this story here.

Immigration Enforcement Has Exacerbated The Problem

Humans traveling as cargo in tractor-trailers have become alarmingly common. Those inside the tractor-trailer can suffer from extreme dehydration, heat stroke and often face death.

Many immigrants found in the back of tractor-trailers did not know that they would be transported in this manner because they hire smugglers who are in charge of their fate once across the U.S. border. Many others are smuggled against their will by human traffickers or are coerced into being sex workers.

NBC News states, “Immigration advocates say increased border patrol enforcement and harsher immigration policies have exacerbated the problem.”

“That forces people into the more dangerous ways of trying to get through into the country,” Eddie Canales, director of the non-profit group South Texas Human Rights Center, told NBC News, “People are dying every day.

Donald Trump’s immigration policies are making people find even more dangerous routes into the U.S.

This issue is very troubling to anti-trafficking groups because the increase in regulation is not causing immigrants to deter from entering the U.S. at all, it causing immigrants to take greater transportation risks – many resulting in death.

Melysa Sperber, director of public policy and government relations for Humanity United, commented on recent immigrant deaths in tractor-trailers saying, “Those are policies that are going to make these communities more vulnerable and are going to empower traffickers because they’ll be able to take advantage of these communities.”

Truckers Against Human Trafficking

NPR recently spoke to a group of truck drivers to ask them about this issue. NPR reported, “Truck driver Roosevelt Phillips says he’s heard of people who have run all kinds of illegal cargo to make money. They all end the same. Everybody – all the stories that I’ve heard, the people got arrested. So why you would want to do something like that, I don’t get it.”

The reckless disregard for humanity needed to pack a tractor-trailer full of living people – without water, air conditioning, or ventilation – is what the U.S. faces today. Human trafficking is a direct crime against humanity.

Truck drivers know human smuggling does not end well. In many cases, the unknowing driver is the one that faces the consequences of others’ actions.

There is a national group called Truckers Against Trafficking that strives to educate not only truck drivers about the perils of human trafficking, but to empower truck drivers to combat human and sex trafficking in the U.S.

You can find more information about their organization here.