A New Mexico man was arrested Tuesday after border patrol officers discovered 67 illegal immigrants concealed in the back compartment of a box van he was driving in West Texas.
Javier Duarte, a 22-year-old who lives in Las Cruces, allegedly drove the white box truck near Alpine, Texas on Tuesday when he pulled up to a checkpoint on Route 118.
A K-9 alerted to the presence of hidden humans and officers later found the migrants, who came from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
They were hidden behind two wooden walls which were drilled into the truck with metal brackets. Photos of the truck showed migrants in a tight space behind plywood with two small fans.
There were four minors in the truck aged eight to 13, as well as another 17 who was identified as an unaccompanied minor.
TEXAS BORDER PROTECTION OFFICERS SEIZE MORE THAN $ 50M OF METH WHICH IS INTRODUCED TO US
Three of the illegal immigrants had previously been deported from the United States after committing crimes including rape, possession with intent to distribute drugs and crimes involving moral turpitude.
“Immigration checkpoints are an essential tool in the US Border Patrol’s mission to protect our nation’s borders,” Big Bend Area Chief Patrol Officer Sean McGoffin said in a statement. . “Transnational criminal organizations put profit before human life, often with devastating consequences.”
Encounters with migrants in the Big Bend sector jumped nearly 332% in fiscal 2021 compared to 2020.
Duarte was charged with one count of transporting aliens and one count of aiding or assisting aliens to enter the United States who had previously been convicted of an aggravated felony.
He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted on both counts.
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Human traffickers frequently used box trucks to smuggle migrants.
Border patrol officers in the Laredo area discovered 114 migrants in the loading area of a U-Haul rental truck in January.
Mexican authorities last month found 652 migrants in six trailers at a military checkpoint near the US border.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.