U.S. CBP official blames high number of smuggled immigrants in tractor-trailers on “weak border”
EDINBURG, Texas (AP) – An official with U.S. Customs and Border Protection says the high number of people being smuggled into the U.S. in tractor-trailers in South Texas “goes right back to a weak border.”
Manuel Padilla is the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Border Patrol sector chief for the Rio Grande Valley, the region at Texas’ southernmost point. He spoke to The Associated Press the day after 16 immigrants were found locked inside a tractor-trailer parked at an Edinburg gas station.
Padilla said Monday that authorities had stopped more than 30 tractor-trailers since October in the Rio Grande Valley. He tells the AP that “in general terms” the use of tractor-trailers to smuggle people is higher in South Texas “than any other area along the border.”
Most apprehensions of people crossing the United States’ southern border occur in the Rio Grande Valley, which includes more than 300 miles of the Rio Grande, the river separating the U.S. and Mexico in Texas.
Immigrants discovered in the tractor-trailer were from Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and Romania. Padilla says while most people crossing the southern U.S. border illegally come from Central America, people from Europe and Asia also occasionally enter the U.S. illegally through Mexico.
Police in Texas say 16 people were found locked inside a tractor-trailer parked outside a gas station.
Edinburg Assistant Police Chief Oscar Trevino tells KGBT-TV the immigrants from several different countries may have been locked inside the 18-wheeler for at least eight hours before being freed by officers Sunday morning.
None of the people inside the tractor-trailer required medical attention. Trevino says two people believed to be in charge of the rig were detained.
The television station reports Edinburg police responded after getting an anonymous call from someone saying a relative was trapped inside the tractor-trailer with several others.
A spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says the agency is investigating the case.
The incident comes more than three weeks after 10 people died and several others were rescued from a sweltering rig in San Antonio.