ICE investigates human smuggling incident after 17 rescued from locked trailer

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line Digital Content Editor | Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials are leading an investigation after 17 undocumented immigrants were rescued from a locked trailer at a Texas truck stop last weekend.

On Sunday, police in Edinburg, Texas, received a phone call from a family member of one of the individuals who was locked in the trailer, according to Oscar Trevino, assistant chief of the Edinburg Police Department.

Trevino said the individuals had been locked in the trailer for eight to nine hours at a Flying J truck stop near the 281 Expressway. Trevino said the victims were “just hungry and thirsty” and that no one required any medical attention. The undocumented individuals are from Romania, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico.

“When our officers got this information, they immediately converged (on the truck stop),” Trevino said in a phone interview with Land Line. “They started going truck by truck and banging on doors, trying to see if they got a response. These officers actually averted a horrible tragedy from occurring.”

Trevino said two subjects – one male and one female from Cuba – also were detained and turned over to federal agents. A spokesperson with ICE says the agency’s investigation is ongoing, and that no charges have been filed as of Tuesday. The agency declined further comment.

Sunday’s incident is latest in a series of similar instances where a large group of people had to be rescued from a sweltering trailer, according to a statement from Thomas Homan, acting director of ICE.

In July, 10 people died after being locked for hours in a tractor-trailer at a Wal-Mart in San Antonio. The truck driver who was driving the rig – James Matthew Bradley, Jr. – is facing the death penalty if convicted on federal charges of transporting illegal immigrants.

According to Homan’s statement, Sunday’s incident was the third such case in the area since the San Antonio story made national headlines.

“While 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,” Homan said in the statement. “We will not let up in our efforts to disrupt and dismantle the illicit pathways used by transnational criminal organizations and human smuggling facilitators.”

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