Texas and U.S. law enforcement officials in San Antonio, Texas, found a group of illegal immigrants being smuggled in the back of a tractor-trailer. Human smugglers transported the migrants in an air-conditioned trailer which prevented any serious injury or illness.
Law enforcement officers from several agencies responded to a call Tuesday night about a group of people suspected of illegally entering the U.S. When the police arrived, they found 55 suspected illegal immigrants in and around a refrigerated tractor-trailer, KSAT ABC12 reported. The incident occurred on the city’s north side, near the Interstate 410 Loop and Broadway.
Agents from Homeland Security Investigations are looking into the failed smuggling attempt, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesperson Nina Pruneda told the ABC affiliate. She did not provide any additional details about the situation.
In addition to the large law enforcement presence, at least 10 fire units also arrived on the scene to provide assistance.
San Antonio Fire Department Chief Charles Hood told reporters that because of the fact that the trailer was air conditioned and the smugglers provided water for the migrants, they only had to treat five people for minor injuries. He said none of the migrants suffered heat stroke or any other heat-related illness.
The San Antonio Fire Department transported the five injured migrants to a local hospital for treatment of their minor injuries. ICE agents processed the 50 remaining migrants and transported them to a detention center where background investigations will be carried out. The migrants could face criminal charges for immigration violations and the children found in the trailer could be removed from their parents under new Trump Administration policies aimed at reducing the risk to the children. An exact count on the number of minors found at the scene was not immediately available.
In December 2017, a similar incident occurred where 12 illegal immigrants were found in a tractor-trailer. In that case, San Antonio Police Department Chief William McManus allegedly interfered in immigration officials’ attempt to take the migrants into custody, Breitbart Texas reported.
Before ICE agents could take control of the scene, McManus, who personally went to the scene in civilian clothes, took custody of the migrants and then released them to Catholic Charities.
“Once the folks got here to police headquarters we have no jurisdiction to hold them, to detain them, so they were released to Catholic Charities and what Catholic Charities did with them I don’t know,” San Antonio Police Chief William McManus told reporters.
He also made what many are calling a highly unusual decision to arrest the driver under Texas human smuggling laws instead of turning him over to ICE.
“It could have gone federal, it could have gone state,” McManus told reporters during a press conference. “So because we had 12 people sitting on the corner, we had all of our officers queued up waiting to see how we were going to handle this, I made the call to handle it at the state level.”
Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood told reporters this was highly unusual.
“Since I have been the DA, they have not turned a case over, a case on transport smuggling to us in the three years that I have been the DA, so this is a first,” LaHood told ABC12.
Following the release of the migrants to Catholic Charities by Chief McManus, the president of the San Antonio Police Officers Association called for the chief to be placed on administrative leave and for an investigation into what he called “obvious violations of the general manual.”
In a letter to the San Antonio City Council obtained by Breitbart Texas, Helle said he believes Chief McManus may have “violated state or federal laws.” This is in addition to what he described as “obvious violations of the general manual.”
Later in January, the Office of the Texas Attorney General confirmed to Breitbart Texas that they were conducting an investigation into whether the chief’s conduct violated the state’s new sanctuary city law (SB4).
“Our office has received multiple complaints alleging that the San Antonio police chief violated Senate Bill 4, the Texas law prohibiting sanctuary city policies that the attorney general has authority to enforce,” OAG spokesman Mark Rylander said in response to an inquiry from Breitbart Texas. “We have begun our investigation and demanded that the San Antonio Police Department preserve all of its records relating to the incident.”
KSAT reported that the Texas OAG received 31 complaints that Chief McManus may have violated the SB4 law. The law provides for criminal and civil penalties for law enforcement officials who refuse to cooperate with federal immigration law enforcement officials.