Javier Duarte, a 22-year-old who lives in Las Cruces, was allegedly driving the white box truck on Tuesday near Alpine, Texas when he stopped at a checkpoint on Highway 118.
A K-9 alerted to the presence of concealed humans and officers subsequently found the migrants, who were from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
They were hidden behind two wooden walls that were drilled into the truck with metal brackets. Photos of the truck showed migrants in a tight space behind plywood with two small fans.
There were four minors in the truck ranging in age from eight to 13-years-old, as well an additional 17-year-old who was identified as an unaccompanied minor.
Three of the illegal immigrants had previously been removed from the United States after committing felonies, including rape, possession with intent to distribute drugs, and crimes involving moral turpitude.
“Immigration checkpoints are an essential tool in the U.S. Border Patrol’s mission to protect our nation’s borders,” Big Bend Sector Chief Patrol Agent Sean McGoffin said in a statement. “Transnational Criminal Organizations put profit over human life, often with devastating consequences.”
Encounters with migrants in the Big Bend sector surged nearly 332% in fiscal year 2021 compared to 2020.
Duarte was charged with one count of transportation of aliens and one count of aiding or assisting aliens to enter the U.S. who were previously convicted of an aggravated felony.
He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted on both counts.
Human traffickers have frequently used box trucks to smuggle migrants.
Border patrol agents in the Laredo sector discovered 114 migrants in the cargo area of a U-Haul rental truck in January.
Just last month, Mexican authorities found 652 migrants in six trailers at a military checkpoint near the United States border.
Source: El Imparcial