Migrant smuggling activity intensified in New Mexico

Border guards stop more than half a dozen vehicles carrying unauthorized foreign nationals near Deming.

EL PASO, TX (Border Report) – U.S. Border Patrol agents monitoring the roads of Southern New Mexico stopped 10 suspicious vehicles and detained about 30 illegal migrants in 24 hours this week.

Detentions and arrests of several drivers who are US citizens occurred Tuesday on New Mexico State Highway 26 northeast of Deming. The road connects Deming to Interstate 25, which leads to Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Colorado Springs, Denver, and beyond.

The first collision took place at 1:00 am and involved a vehicle carrying two migrants. Two hours later, border guards stopped an SUV with four migrants on the same stretch of road. This caused alarm among the agents who received permission to set up a tactical checkpoint.

“This is a secondary line of defense against anything that goes through illegally. If we have the manpower, we’ll place them around Deming, Santa Teresa, Lordsburg. […] areas outside of our (permanent) checkpoints,” said Carlos A. Rivera, spokesman for the El Paso sector of the Border Patrol, which includes New Mexico.

The Border Patrol maintains permanent checkpoints along I-10, I-25, and State Highway 9 north of Columbus, New Mexico.

The tactical roadblock produced quick results. Six drivers were detained for several hours on Tuesday for transporting illegal migrants. Two more vehicles were pulled aside later that day. In total, 23 foreigners were detained at the checkpoint. tweeted Peter Jakes, Chief Patrol Agent for the El Paso Sector Border Patrol. The migrants were fingerprinted and expelled under Section 42 of the Public Health Act.

At least one of the drivers was turned over to the US Attorney’s Office for prosecution under the Immigrant Smuggling Act.

Although border guards have spent much of the past year processing asylum seekers arriving between El Paso’s ports of entry, illegal smuggling has not abated, federal officials said.

Migrant Encounters in the El Paso Sector in Fiscal Year 2023 (CBP Chart)

Border guards have pulled more than 800 illegal migrants from passenger buses over the past year and since October 1 have unearthed 55 “hideaways” where smugglers have been holding migrants who have escaped agents until they can smuggle them deep into the United States. A total of 651 migrants were detained in these caches, Rivera said.

Since October, two truckers have been arrested for hiding 51 migrants in commercial vehicles, compared with three trucks with 192 migrants stopped in the previous fiscal year.

The southern state of New Mexico, with vast stretches of desert, not all of which is protected by a border wall, has long been a hotspot for transnational criminal organizations trying to smuggle migrants into the United States. In the El Paso sector, 106,561 migrant encounters have been recorded since October 1. Of these, 72,356 were treated under Section 8, which often involves asylum seekers, and 34,205 resulted in Section 42 removal.

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