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Border Patrol addresses human smuggling during pandemic

Government officials say drivers and stash house operators prioritize profit over human lives, on average charging $1,000 per person for human smuggling.
Published: Aug. 5, 2020 at 11:27 PM CDT
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LAREDO, Tex. (KGNS) - The number of undocumented immigrants arrested just this year reach to 3,087, and a good amount of them were involved in human smuggling attempts.

“So if one person in that group is sick, and they’re locked in a vehicle for hours, odds are that everybody else is going to be sick.”

This trailer doesn’t just carry furniture, food or other commercial products, it carries people.

Human smuggling is an increasing problem in the U.S. and even right here in Laredo. These human lives travel in 18-wheelers during triple-digit weather.

Border Patrol and other U.S. agencies are cracking down to end this illegal business, especially in the midst of COVID-19.

Toolboxes, large suitcases, and furniture are common hiding places for undocumented immigrants attempting to cross the border, but the most common method of transportation is in the back of an 18-wheeler with no food, no water, and unbearable temperatures.

“When we see lives locked inside here like this, there’s no ventilation, there’s no water,” said Mathew Hudak, Chief Patrol Agent of U.S. Border Patrol. “They generally don’t have PPE… and when these doors are closed, they are literally locked, it gets well over 120, 130 degrees in there.”

Human smuggling, of course, isn’t a new issue. What is new is the increased use of tractor trailers and now a global pandemic.

“When we see groups of 20 to 60 people locked inside of a trailer, most of those aliens do not have personal protective equipment.”

In just half a year, Border Patrol has busted 181 human smuggling attempts in tractor trailers. That’s up from 135 this time last year.

Border Patrol has also recorded at least 39 deaths this year compared to 66 this time last year.

Government officials say drivers and stash house operators prioritize profit over human lives, on average charging $1,000 per person.

“The motivation for all those people is strictly profit. And these people to them represent nothing more than cargo. Each body to them represents a dollar, and frankly don’t care if they survive.”

The agencies working to end human smuggling emphasize that if you see something, say something.

Border Patrol says they will heighten their efforts to end human smuggling as part of a joint effort with other federal agencies and Mexican officials.

Copyright 2020 KGNS. All rights reserved.

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