Officers from the Texas Department of Public Safety apprehended dozens of undocumented immigrants packed in a truck trailer Tuesday night in South Texas, nearly 50 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. The officers counted 86 people, ranging from as young as 3-years old to 59; four were minors who crossed the border without guardians.
The immigrants were found in the refrigerated trailer of an 18-wheeler truck “packed like sardines,” as described by Frank Torres, emergency medical services manager for Willacy County.
Police began tailing the truck when it passed Donna, a border town a few miles north of the Rio Grande, after receiving a call that it likely contained undocumented immigrants and eventually made their move on the highway.
According to reports, the officers flagged down the truck on Highway 77, located near the town of Raymondville. They subsequently arrested two persons for smuggling charges.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced the nationalities of the immigrants on the trailer in a statement published on Wednesday. The passengers, they claim, were from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Nicaragua.
It was not immediately clear to authorities who drove the truck and whether the driver would be facing any charges. It was also unclear which company owned the trailer truck.
Two of the adults in the trailer reportedly suffered from heat exhaustion and dehydration and were quickly brought to hospitals for emergency medical attention. The remaining immigrants were not injured.
While the trailer may have been refrigerated, the number of people inside, along with scorching temperatures and (possibly) several hours of travel, could have made conditions unbearable for the people inside the truck.
According to Torres, they were lucky to get to the truck before anything worse could have happened to the people inside.
“With the 90-degree temperatures that we’re having down here in south Texas, they could’ve died in there,” he added.
Homeland Security Investigations has since taken over the case. Nina Pruneda, a spokeswoman for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) San Antonio office, assured the public that the agency is currently looking into what it deems a case of “human smuggling involving close to 90 illegal aliens discovered inside a tractor-trailer.”
This is not the first time Texas law enforcement has pulled over a truck attempting to smuggle immigrants into the United States under dangerous conditions. Last summer, Texas law enforcement officials found 39 immigrants in the back of a truck in San Antonio, 10 of whom were dead and the rest in critical condition.
In October last year, the truck driver pleaded guilty to one count of “conspiracy to transport aliens resulting in death” and one count of “transporting aliens resulting in death.” He was subsequently sentenced to life in prison.
For more news and updates on U.S. immigration policy, be sure to follow this blog. If you have questions about an immigration case, or would like assistance processing your immigration application, talk to Austin immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle. Contact the Lyttle Law Firm at (512) 215-5225 to schedule a consultation.