Seven charged in smuggling migrants in sweltering secret compartment with little water

Jun 7, 2024, 4:04 PM

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (AP) — Seven people in southern Texas have been charged after endangering nearly two dozen migrants smuggled in a secret trailer compartment during high temperatures and with little water, authorities said. One person remained hospitalized on Friday.

Following a tip of a smuggling operation, Bexar County Sheriff’s Office deputies Thursday morning found 26 migrants in a residence near San Antonio that Sheriff Javier Salazar called a “shack” with holes in the floor and no water.

Salazar said he did not know when the migrants crossed the border but believed they were driven to the area from the border city of Laredo, about 160 miles (260 kilometers) away.

The migrants had been in the trailer’s secret compartment for three hours, Salazar said. Temperatures in San Antonio were in the high 90s Thursday afternoon and were expected to top 100, according to the National Weather Service.

Seven men ranging from 21 to 45 years old were arrested and are facing state felony charges that include human smuggling, engaging in organized criminal activity, operating a stash house and evading arrest.

Twelve people were initially sent to the hospital for minor and heat-related injuries, but by Friday, only one migrant remained hospitalized due to dehydration and “cardiac related issues,” according to a Friday news release.

The smuggled people were originally from Mexico, Honduras, Venezuela and Guatemala and their ages ranged from 18 to 54. Six of them were women.

San Antonio was the site of the nation’s deadliest human smuggling episode in June 2022, when 53 migrants, including eight children, died after being trapped in a sweltering semi-trailer that had been driven from Laredo.

That trailer had a malfunctioning air-conditioning unit. When authorities found it on a remote San Antonio road, 48 migrants were already dead and five more later died at hospitals.

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Seven charged in smuggling migrants in sweltering secret compartment with little water