Things That Matter

Human-Trafficking Scheme Leaves 10 Migrants Dead, Dozens More Hospitalized

Early Sunday morning, around midnight, a Walmart employee in San Antonio, Texas called 911 because several people in the parking lot of the store needed help. When police showed up, eight people were found dead inside a semi trailer truck. As of Monday morning, two more people died, The New York Times reports. Police say the victims were undocumented immigrants who were being smuggled across the border.

For his involvement in human trafficking, the driver of the truck has been arrested and could be facing the death penalty or life in prison. But the driver, 60-year-old James M. Bradley Jr., claims he had no idea what he was hauling in the first place.

Bradley told police officers that he was simply hired to be a driver and was supposed to drop off the contents at a pre-determined destination.

Aside from those that were found dead in the truck, police found another 29 people. Several immigrants are in critical condition, with many of them suffering from dehydration and heat exposure. Temperatures in San Antonio this month have reached over 100 degrees.

The driver told police that when he initially opened the door to the truck (after he heard banging coming from the back), roughly 30 to 40 people that were inside fled the scene. The undocumented immigrants interviewed by police said that many more people had been loaded into the truck at various spots near around Laredo, Texas. At one point, as many as 200 people were inside the truck.

As of now, Bradley is the only person charged for this horrendous crime, but officials say more arrests will be made.

Police Chief William McManus and Fire Chief Charles Hood briefing on tractor trailer found with multiple deceased after being smuggled inside. 8538 IH35S

Posted by San Antonio Police Department on Sunday, July 23, 2017

Credit: San Antonio Police Department / Facebook

“Checking the video from the store, we found there were a number of vehicles that came in and picked up a lot of the folks that were in that trailer that survived the trip,” Police Chief William McManus said, according to CNN. “The driver and whoever else we find is involved in this will be facing state and federal charges.”

Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan said that the human smugglers had to pack the truck with hundreds in order to “maximize their criminal profits.”

“Human smugglers have repeatedly demonstrated that they have absolutely no regard for human life,” Homan said in a press release. “Our ICE agents and officers, working closely with our law enforcement partners, will pursue these smugglers and bring them to justice.”

Richard L. Durbin, Jr. U.S Attorney for the Western District of Texas, released a statement calling the human-traffickers “ruthless.”

“The South Texas heat is punishing this time of year. These people were helpless in the hands of their transporters. Imagine their suffering, trapped in a stifling trailer in 100-plus degree heat. The driver is in custody and will be charged. We will work with the Homeland Security Investigations and the local responders to identify those who were responsible for this tragedy.”

Polaris, a non-profit that works to curb human trafficking, reports that in 2016, cases of human trafficking increased by 35%.

In Texas alone, out of 300,000 victims of human trafficking, almost 80,000 of them are minors.

READ: The Innocent Behind Bars: Mexico Possible PR Mess

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Ecuadorian Sisters, 3 And 5, Dropped By Smugglers From 14 Ft High Mexico-US Border Wall

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Ecuadorian Sisters, 3 And 5, Dropped By Smugglers From 14 Ft High Mexico-US Border Wall

A recent video shared by a border patrol agent highlighted a shocking moment of smugglers literally dropping two little girls over a 14-foot high fence in the New Mexico desert. Right in the dead of night.

In the disturbing video, the smugglers can be seen climbing the fence and then dropping the two 5-year-old and 3-year-old sisters to the ground.

El Paso Sector Chief Patrol Agent Gloria Chavez shared that the incident occurred “miles from the nearest residence.”

The two little girls (Yareli, 3, and Yasmina, 5) were rescued after agents spotted them during a virtual surveillance sweep. The two sisters are from Ecuador and were dumped by human smugglers at the border wall according to an official.

“[US Immigration officials] need to verify the identity of the parents and confirm they are the parents and make sure they are in good condition to receive the girls,” Magdalena Nunez, of the Consulate of Ecuador in Houston, explained to The New York Post on Thursday. “It’s a process … We’re working to make sure it’s an expedited process and the girls spend as minimal time as possible separated from their parents.”

“Hopefully it can happen soon, in a week or two, but  it can take up to six weeks. We are working to make sure sure it happens as quickly as possible,” she explained before noting that the two sisters are “doing very well.”

“We have been in contact with them and confirmed they are in good health,” Nunez shared. “Physically, they are perfect — emotionally, obviously, they went through a hard time, but I guarantee you right now they are in good health and they are conversing. They are very alert, very intelligent.”

In a statement about the incident, the Ecuadorian consulate confirmed that the two girls had been in touch with their parents, who live in New York City.

“The Ecuadorian Consulate in Houston had a dialogue with the minors and found that they are in good health and that they contacted their parents, who currently live in New York City,” explained the consulate.

In a statement from the girls’ parents sent to Telemundo, the girls’ parents had left their daughters behind at their home in Jaboncillo, Ecuador, to travel to the US. The parents of the two girls have been identified as Yolanda Macas Tene and Diego Vacacela Aguilar. According to the New York Post, “The girls’ grandparents have asked President Biden to reunite the children with their parents. Aguilar paid a human smuggler to take his kids to the border — though the grandparents didn’t know how much they paid.”

“[The parents] wanted to be with them, their mother suffered a lot, for that reason they decided to take them,” paternal grandfather Lauro Vacacela explained in an interview with Univision.

It is still uncertain as to whether or not the girls’ parents are in the country legally.

Photos of the girls showed them having snacks with Agent Gloria Chavez.

“When I visited with these little girls, they were so loving and so talkative, some of them were asking the names of all the agents that were there around them, and they even said they were a little hungry,” Chavez told Fox News. “So I helped them peel a banana and open a juice box and just talked to them. You know, children are just so resilient and I’m so grateful that they’re not severely injured or [have] broken limbs or anything like that.”

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Smugglers Are Tagging U.S.-Bound Migrants With Color Coded Wristbands And Here’s Why

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Smugglers Are Tagging U.S.-Bound Migrants With Color Coded Wristbands And Here’s Why

As the United States experiences a so-called surge of people attempting to enter the U.S., human traffickers and smugglers are working double time as they try to capitalize on the increased movements.

Cartels and human traffickers have long run their smuggling operations like a legitimate business but they’ve only got more advanced in how they move people across the border region and one key tool: color-coded bracelets. These bracelets almost act as passports for migrants to safely cross a cartel’s territory without interference or threats of violence. But what do these bracelets mean and how are they fueling the problem of human trafficking?

Plastic bracelets are being used by cartels to identify migrants in their territory. 

U.S. border agents carried out nearly 100,000 apprehensions or rapid expulsions of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border in February, which is the highest monthly total since mid-2019. With the increase in people attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, cartels are managing this migration of people over their territory and trying to make money off the humanitarian crisis. 

Many cartels have implemented a color-coded bracelet system that identifies those migrants who have paid for permission to cross their territory. In the Rio Grande Valley sector, Border Patrol agents have recently encountered immigrants wearing the bracelets during several apprehensions, Matthew Dyman, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, told Reuters.

The “information on the bracelets represents a multitude of data that is used by smuggling organizations, such as payment status or affiliation with smuggling groups,” Dyman said.

The color-coded system isn’t totally understood.

Credit: ED JONES/AFP via Getty Images

Migrants can pay thousands of dollars for the journey to the United States and human smugglers have to pay off drug cartels to move people through parts of Mexico. This is a money-making operation and cartels want to pay close attention to who has paid. The bracelets may just be a new way to keep track.

Criminal groups operating in northern Mexico, however, have long used systems to log which migrants have already paid for the right to be in gang-controlled territory, as well as for the right to cross the border into the United States, according to migration experts. In fact, in 2019, smugglers kept tabs on rapidly arriving Central American migrants by double checking the names and IDs of migrants before they got off the bus to make sure they had paid. 

One man, a migrant in Reynosa – across the border from McAllen, Texas – who declined to give his name for fear of retaliation, showed Reuters a picture of a purple wristband he was wearing. He told them that he had paid $500 to a criminal group in the city after he arrived from Honduras to ensure that he wasn’t kidnapped or extorted. He said once migrants or their smugglers have paid for the right to cross the river, which is also controlled by criminal groups, they receive another bracelet.

“This way we’re not in danger, neither us nor the ‘coyote,’” he told Reuters.

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