Uptick in human trafficking via tractor-trailers, South Texas border authorities say

State & Regional

HARLINGEN, Texas (Border Report) — The transporting of undocumented migrants packed into the back of unventilated tractor-trailers in triple-digit heat is on the rise in South Texas by human traffickers, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents on Thursday reported.

In Fiscal 2020, Border Patrol agents in the Rio Grande and Laredo sectors have apprehended 3,740 migrants from at least 226 tractor-trailers through August. Often “these individuals (are) discovered concealed in these dangerous and life-threatening conditions,” CBP said in a statement Thursday.

The Laredo Sector has had a 37% increase in human-trafficking via tractor trailers, CBP officials said.

“Smugglers are unscrupulous criminals and will stop at nothing to enrich their pockets, even if it involves locking human beings in trailers intended for animals,” Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan said. Migrants are treated “as a commodity, inhumanely holding them captive in overcrowded stash houses with limited access to food and water.”

Sixty-six undocumented migrants were apprehended on June 29, 2020, found in the back of a locked tractor trailer, CBP officials said. (Courtesy Photo)

CBP officials said smugglers can demand from $6,000 to $12,000 per person to transport a migrant in a tractor-trailer, which they said are often “dangerously hot, crowded trailers and typcially with no means of escape.”

There also has been an uptick of migrants held in stash houses in South Texas with over 100 found in the past year.

On July 13, 2020, Border Patrol agents arrested several undocumented migrants found in the back of a tractor trailer during triple-digit temperatures. (Courtesy Photo).

During the COVID-19 pandemic, packing migrants into closed quarters with poor ventilation increases their risk of infection, officials said. They released a video of an unnamed migrant from Central America who said she was packed into a trailer with 10 people unable to breathe, and that smugglers often tried to sexually harass them.

“Migrants should never risk their lives or waste their life savings by paying their hard-earned money to smugglers who have no regard for human life by attempting the long and dangerous journey to the U.S.,” Rodney Scott, Chief of the United States Border Patrol, said.

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