Texas Sheriff Says 7 Suspects Arrested, 11 Migrants Hospitalized After Sting Near San Antonio

Bexar County Sheriff personnel process a crime scene during a law enforcement sting operation, Thursday, June 6, 2024, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)
Bexar County Sheriff personnel process a crime scene during a law enforcement sting operation, Thursday, June 6, 2024, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)
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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Eleven people were hospitalized and seven smuggling suspects were arrested Thursday after authorities found more than two dozen migrants who had been driven from the border packed in a secret compartment of a trailer with little water and in sweltering heat.

Acting on a tip about a smuggling operation, authorities followed the trailer as it was towed to a rural residence outside San Antonio, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said.

A total of 26 migrants were found at the residence that Salazar described as a “shack” with holes in the floor and no water. Of those, 11 were taken to a hospital with heat-related and minor injuries, Salazar said.

The migrants had been in the trailer's secret compartment for three hours, Salazar said. Temperatures in San Antonio were in the high 90s Thursday afternoon and were expected to top 100, according to the National Weather Service.

No specific information was released about the conditions of the migrants who were hospitalized, but Salazar said, "We think everybody is out of the woods, as far as losing their life.”

The smuggling sting came two days after President Joe Biden unveiled plans to enact immediate significant restrictions on migrants seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border as the White House tries to neutralize immigration as a political liability ahead of the November elections.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, has fought the Biden administration over immigration polices for years. Abbott launched Operation Lone Star, a multibillion-dollar state border security effort that has led to court battles with the federal government over river buoys and razor wire to stop migrants crossing the Rio Grande, and other border related measures. Texas also has bused tens of thousands of migrants to Democratic-run cities across the U.S.

San Antonio was the site of the nation’s deadliest human smuggling episode in June 2022. Fifty-three migrants, including eight children, died after being trapped in a sweltering semi-trailer that had been driven from the border city of Laredo. The trailer had a malfunctioning air-conditioning unit. When authorities found it on a remote San Antonio road, 48 migrants were already dead and five more later died at hospitals. The dead migrants were from Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

All of the migrants found Thursday appeared to be adults, Salazar said. The nationalities of most of them was not immediately known, but one woman told authorities she was from Guatemala and that she had paid $16,000 to be brought to the U.S.

Salazar said did not know when the migrants crossed the border but believed they were driven to the area from Laredo, about 160 miles (260 kilometers) away.

Salazar blamed Mexican cartels for the operation broke up Thursday, and noted bullet proof vests and rifles were found on the property. Some of the people found at the residence ran, but authorities believed they caught everyone involved.

“Clearly cartel related,” Salazar said. “This is the fault of the bloodthirsty organizations that are bringing them across and putting them in harm’s way.”

Salazar noted how well hidden the migrants were as they were being moved.

“You could be standing right there next to it and not know that thing contains 26 people,” Salazar said. "They’re hiding in plain sight.”


Associated Press reporter Valerie Gonzalez in McAllen, Texas, contributed.