MATAMOROS, TAMAULIPAS.- Texas Border Patrol agents found 26 migrants huddled inside a frigid trailer, hidden among ice and frozen broccoli — and now the smuggler who locked them inside is going to prison, the U.S. Department of Justice announced.
Carlos Alberto Avila, a 39-year-old resident of Brownsville, was sentenced for his role in smuggling the undocumented migrants into Texas and forcing them to endure “near freezing and life-threatening conditions,” according to a July 7 news release.
Avila was behind the wheel of a Kenworth tractor-trailer when he pulled up to a Border Patrol checkpoint near Falfurrias — roughly 76 miles north of the border city of McAllen — on Oct. 26, 2021, the release said.
A K-9 raised an alert and agents moved the truck to a secondary inspection area, according to federal officials. Agents opened the locked cargo trailer, which was being cooled to one degree above freezing, and found the migrants inside.
The only source of light they had was from a single cell phone, officials said.
Laying on top of stacked ice and frozen produce, some would periodically crawl up next to the trailer door, the only source of relative warmth.
They were afraid they would freeze to death if the drive went on much longer, they told border agents. And if the cold became too much, there was no way for them to escape.
The group of 26 had traveled like this for three hours, officials said. If the smuggling attempt hadn’t been caught, they had at least another four hours to go.
Avila’s 21-month prison sentence comes just days after dozens of migrants were found dead in and around a tractor-trailer outside of San Antonio. Authorities say the trailer was sweltering, and the intense heat killed most of the occupants.