U.S. Border Patrol agents foil multiple human-smuggling attempts involving commercial trucks

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Truck hauling hay
After stopping a tractor-trailer at the Interstate 8 checkpoint near Pine Valley, California, June 18, U.S. Border Patrol agents discovered 12 people hidden in a load of hay. (Courtesy: U.S. Border Patrol)

Between June 18 and June 22, U.S. Border Patrol agents stopped four human-smuggling attempts along the nation’s southern border, one in California and three in Texas.

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The first incident, which took place in the San Diego Sector, occurred Thursday, June 18, near Pine Valley, California, when agents at the Interstate 8 checkpoint stopped a white tractor-trailer hauling a flatbed trailer loaded with hay bales. While the primary agent conducted an immigration inspection, a Border Patrol K-9 alerted agents’ attention to the middle section of the trailer.

Hidden compartment
Smugglers constructed an unventilated compartment within a load of hay bales. (Courtesy: U.S. Border Patrol)

When secondary agents inspected the load, they discovered 12 undocumented migrants hidden inside a compartment constructed inside the hay. All 12 were adult male Mexican nationals with no legal right to enter or remain in the U.S.

The driver, a 46-year-old U.S. citizen was booked for alien smuggling, and the tractor-trailer was seized by the U.S. Border Patrol.

“Human smugglers have no regard for life,” said Aaron Heitke, chief patrol agent for the San Diego Sector. “This tight space within the haystacks was not ventilated and was not designed with passenger safety in mind. I am proud of our agents. Their dedication to service and the preservation of life prevented serious harm from befalling these individuals.”

The remaining three incidents took place in the Laredo Sector near Laredo, Texas.

During the afternoon of June 19, a white tractor-trailer with two visible occupants entered the Interstate 35 checkpoint. When a Border Patrol K-9 alerted agents to the vehicle, agents conducted a nonintrusive scan of the vehicle and detected people in the trailer. After opening the trailer, agents discovered 22 Mexican nationals who were in the country illegally. The 22 people, along with the driver and passenger, both U.S. citizens, were taken into custody pending further investigation. The tractor was seized by the U.S. Border Patrol. The trailer was found to be reported stolen and was turned over to the Webb County Sheriff’s Office.

The next incident occurred during the early morning of June 20, when a white tractor-trailer approached the Interstate 35 checkpoint and a Border Patrol K-9 alerted agents to the vehicle. Agents opened the trailer and discovered 61 people from the countries of Mexico and Guatemala, all illegally present in the U.S. The individuals and the driver, a U.S. citizen, were taken into custody pending further investigation by Homeland Security Investigations. Both the tractor and trailer were seized by the U.S. Border Patrol.

The final incident happened during the early morning of June 22, when agents at the checkpoint on U.S. Highway 59 encountered a box truck with a visible driver and passenger. After being alerted by a Border Patrol K-9, agents opened the back of the vehicle and discovered a hidden compartment in the roof. Inside were 11 people from Mexico who were in the country illegally. The individuals, along with the driver and passenger, both U.S. citizens, were taken into custody pending further investigation. The vehicle was turned over to the Duval County Sheriff’s Office.

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