MCALLEN, Texas – The cartels responsible for smuggling migrants into the United States have become more violent in clashes with local law enforcement north of the border and are more sophisticated than sheriffs outside of Houston have ever seen.
The city of Houston, in east Texas, is the first destination for most immigrants who make it across the US-Mexico border into the Rio Grande Valley and Laredo regions. Victoria County’s Sheriffs Justin Marr and AJ Louderback of Jackson County are used to their deputies stopping vehicles on the freeway that are full of people being smuggled into Houston, but the vans are becoming increasingly vicious.
“This is an extremely organized criminal platform and they are more violent now,” Marr said in an interview. “They are much more aggressive in what they do. They have no regard for life, freedom or property. They don’t care about the people wearing them, the citizens on the street, or the MPs trying to arrest them. “
“They don’t care if people are blown out of the back of their truck or run over – they push a family out on the street and put them in a ditch. They do not care. Your goal is to get the job done, get paid, turn around, and do it all over again. It’s all about the money, ”added Marr. “They are more aggressive there.”
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Louderback described a level of “aggression” and “delicacy” that took law enforcement by surprise.
“You are better, faster. You are stronger. They are better financially, ”said Louderback.
Recently, Victoria County Sheriff’s MPs stopped vehicles and only approached the driver’s window for the driver to pick up or forcing people inside to get out quickly for the driver to escape, Marr said. While MPs have always seen their fair share of the persecution, Marr’s team sees more and more smugglers trying to escape. Both sheriffs are increasingly seeing clashes in which smuggled vehicles have fled and crashed into trees, sped through miles of fenced ranches or lost control on the freeway.
In Jackson County, the vehicles that transport people are stolen faster and more efficiently, Louderback said. Thieves use electronic devices to steal cars and trucks that allow them to do so without physically breaking in. For example, smuggling organizations pay around $ 50,000 for a stolen 2020 Ford F-350 and then take out the inside seats except the driver’s seat and pack it full of people or drugs.
In one incident in Victoria County, a driver led law enforcement through three private ranches before officers found the abandoned truck. The deputy found “blood all over the truck,” an indication that at least one person inside was injured and needed medical attention. In an attempt to escape the authorities, the vehicle had felled small trees and plowed several ditches at high speed. The people on board would not have buckled up, and often a dozen to 30 people can be accommodated in a pickup truck or SUV. Nobody was found at the scene of the crime.
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Marr said the Mexican golf cartel is behind much of the smuggling. The cartel has broken down into more than half a dozen subgroups that work together to benefit from the multi-billion dollar people smuggling business. Most drivers are US residents and are based in Houston. Cartels rely on Americans and illegal immigrants in the United States to transport people and drugs within the country.