Five Human Smuggling Attempts Foiled in South Texas in 11 Hours

A human smuggler's vehicle catches fire in South Texas after the driver ran through a rancher's fence while fleeing apprehension. (U.S. Border Patrol/Rio Grande Valley Sector)
U.S. Border Patrol/Rio Grande Valley Sector

Border Patrol agents in the Texas Rio Grande Valley foiled five migrant smuggling attempts in less than 11 hours. The human smuggling ventures spanned from Wednesday evening through Thursday morning, with one causing significant property damage after smugglers abandoned a vehicle in tall grass. The ensuing brush fire destroyed the vehicle and burned privately owned ranch land.

On Wednesday evening, Border Patrol officials received a call from a concerned citizen regarding migrants getting into a vehicle near Mission, Texas. Responding Border Patrol agents attempted to stop a van they believed was related to the call. The van led agents on a pursuit from there into the city of Pharr. With the aid of a U.S Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations helicopter crew, 15 mostly Central American migrants who had entered the country illegally were apprehended. The driver managed to escape and was not apprehended.

Simultaneously, near San Manuel, Texas, Border Patrol agents attempted to stop a Ford Flex on U.S. Highway 281. Agents suspected the driver was smuggling humans on the busy highway leading out of the Rio Grande Valley. Again, a chase ensued that eventually ended when the driver of the suspect vehicle drove onto a private ranch to avoid the pursuing agents.

The driver abandoned the vehicle in tall dry grass and escaped. As Border Patrol agents searched the area for the occupants of the vehicle, the grass caught fire underneath the abandoned vehicle. The vehicle was completely consumed in flames and destroyed. Firefighters responded and managed to extinguish the fire but were unable to save the vehicle. While one migrant was apprehended, the smuggler managed to escape.

Within minutes, Border Patrol agents on U.S. Highway 77 attempted to stop and inspect a vehicle near Norias, Texas. The driver of that vehicle also failed to yield and led Border Patrol agents on a pursuit. The driver drove the vehicle into a private ranch by breaching a closed gate to avoid arrest. Agents observed several people exit the vehicle and run into the brush. The agents apprehended seven migrants from Guatemala. The driver was not apprehended.

On Thursday morning, Border Patrol agents pursued another vehicle near San Manuel, Texas — a Ford pickup truck that failed to yield to Border Patrol agents and sped away. After leading the agents on a pursuit, the driver veered off the highway and stopped. Multiple occupants fled from the vehicle to escape. Border Patrol agents managed to apprehend five migrants after a search of the area. The driver once again escaped.

In nearby Escobares, Texas, a Chevrolet Suburban caught the eye of Border Patrol agents when they observed suspected migrants getting into the vehicle. Agents stopped the vehicle and attempted to identify the occupants. The driver fled from the scene and could not be located. The vehicle was transporting 21 migrants cramped inside.

In just three months of the current fiscal year, from October through December, Border Patrol agents in the Rio Grande Valley sector apprehended 137,239 migrants illegally entering the country. The number of migrant apprehensions is nearly triple the amount apprehended in the same time frame last year.

Randy Clark is a 32-year veteran of the United States Border Patrol.  Prior to his retirement, he served as the Division Chief for Law Enforcement Operations, directing operations for nine Border Patrol Stations within the Del Rio, Texas, Sector. Follow him on Twitter @RandyClarkBBTX.

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