Salton City, CA–El Centro Sector Border Patrol agents assigned to the Highway 86 immigration checkpoint arrested a man suspected of smuggling 21 undocumented immigrants Wednesday morning.
The incident occurred at approximately 9:15 a.m., when a man drove a tractor-trailer to the checkpoint. While Border Patrol agents conducted an immigration check on the driver during primary inspection, a Border Patrol canine detection team alerted to the cargo area of the trailer. The driver was referred to secondary for further inspection.
During secondary inspection, Border Patrol agents inspected the cargo area of the tractor-trailer and discovered 21 people locked inside with no safety restraints and no way to extricate themselves from the inside. Agents safely removed all of the subjects and conducted welfare checks.
The 50-year-old truck driver presented agents with a Legal Permanent Resident card as his own. However, that document was later determined to be an imposter document. The driver was determined to be an undocumented immigrant from Mexico illegally present in the United States.
The driver and all 21 people, which included 16 adult men, 4 adult women and 1 unaccompanied juvenile boy, were placed under arrest.
The driver is being held in federal custody pending criminal charges. The immigrants were expeditiously expelled back to Mexico under Title 42 authority.
“The smuggling of humans in locked containers, especially during the recent warm temperatures, is a recipe for disaster,” said Chief Patrol Agent Gregory Bovino. “Our agents are on the lookout for such smuggling methods to save lives and keep our communities safe.”
The incident is the fifth of its kind this year in the Imperial Valley. In March, El Centro Sector agents discovered 42 smuggled immigrants dangerously packed inside of a utility trailer near the border in Calexico. Additionally, there were two similar smuggling events that occurred in January and February of this year. Just last week, agents found three people in the cab of a tractor-trailer at the Highway 86 checkpoint.