Border Patrol Shifts Strategy to Educate New Truckers
MCALLEN – Human smuggling rescues are occurring at an exponential rate. According to U.S. Border Patrol Rio Grande Valley Sector, last fiscal year, there were nearly 600 rescues recorded for human smuggling.
The Valley sector reached half that number in the first quarter of this fiscal year.
Border Patrol took a proactive stance Monday by visiting the commercial driver’s license course at South Texas College to explain to students the dangers and consequences of human smuggling.
The Rio Grande Valley Sector Border Patrol is shifting their attention to younger generations to stop the growing trend as a part of Operation Big Rig.
One of the students at the course is a third-generation truck driver. Isaiah Ybarra said his father and grandfather were both exposed to the temptation of getting paid thousands to smuggle people in the country illegally across the checkpoint. He says they both declined.
Monday’s presentation by Border Patrol reinforced Ybarra’s mindset of saying “no” if the offer rolls around. A family friend who fell into the human smuggling business was caught and is serving jail time.
Ybarra said, “It’s not worth it.”
Under the “Texas Hold ‘Em” Initiative, a person's commercial driver's licenses will be revoked when convicted of criminal activity such as drug or human smuggling.
Convicted criminals also face federal jail time.
Border Patrol explained truck drivers prosecuted for human smuggling aren’t always actively attempting to smuggle people.
“Money is the main contributor. People are getting approached to make a quick buck. Unfortunately, people are falling into this trap, they're doing it for the money and they're not thinking about the lives that they're stuffing inside those trailers,” said Marcelino Medina.
Head instructor of the CDL course at STC, Joe Lopez, said in some cases, truckers don't realize someone snuck onto the vehicle. Lopez warned his students and instructed them on where to look before hitting the road.
Border Patrol said this is one of many joint sessions they plan on having to discuss human smuggling to combat the issue from the front end, rather than face the consequences at the checkpoint.