String of human trafficking truck busts has ICE calling for crackdown on sanctuary cities, witness in latest case says smugglers were trying to fix truck’s A/C

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Updated Aug 16, 2017

Four recent truck-related human trafficking busts in Texas has Immigration and Customs Enforcement calling for a crack-down on sanctuary cities.

ICE acting director Thomas Homan released a statement this week after law enforcement, acting on a tip, rescued 17 illegal immigrants from a hot tractor-trailer parked at a truck stop in Edinburg, Texas on Sunday.

“In just a few weeks since the tragedy in San Antonio that claimed the lives of 10 aliens during their transport in a tractor trailer by a criminal smuggling operation, we’ve seen three more of these cases in the same area,” Homan said.

“While additional loss of life has been avoided thus far, these cases underscore the urgent need to remove pull factors like sanctuary policies that only perpetuate the vicious human smuggling cycle. We will not let up in our efforts to disrupt and dismantle the illicit pathways used by transnational criminal organizations and human smuggling facilitators.”

In Edinburg, two Cuban nationals were arrested for transporting 14 men and three women illegally into the U.S. They had been in the back of the truck for up to eight hours in the Texas heat. One of the immigrants called a relative in Mexico complaining about being trapped inside the hot truck. That relative, in turn, called police.

A witness told CBS affiliate that he had been approached at the Flying J parking lot in Edinburg around noon Sunday by the two Cubans—a man and woman—who said they were looking for a mechanic to fix the trailer’s refrigeration unit.

Ramiro Provencio, who was at the truck stop to wash trucks, said the trailers get hot under the Texas sun.

“When I do the trailer washouts, and that’s with the door open, it’s still real hot in there,” he said.

So far this year, Texas has had 433 reported cases of human trafficking, trailing only California which leads the nation with 705 cases, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Florida ranks third with 329 cases.