Border Patrol agents conducting a train check operation near Hebbronville discovered 11 people hidden inside of a train’s grain hopper last Thursday afternoon.
According to Matthew Hudak, the Chief Patrol Agent of the Laredo sector for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), temperatures in the hopper exceeded 106 degrees.
Hudak said at a press conference that the agents used a ladder to help the individuals out of the container. Nine were able to climb out on their own, one needed extra help from agents, and the other was found “completely unconscious and not responsive.”
“The agent actually had to enter through the manhole cover at the top of the grain hopper to get to that individual, and ultimately physically grab him and carry him up the ladder to get him out,” said Hudak.
EMTs at the scene treated the unconscious man who was then flown to a hospital for treatment.
At the hospital, the individual tested positive for COVID-19.
“I would have loved to have that agent who did that rescue here today to talk to you,” said Hudak, “but unfortunately because of that exposure, now he and some of those other agents are in a quarantine status.”
During the press conference on Friday, CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan repeatedly emphasized that immigrants crossing the border illegally amidst the coronavirus pandemic were putting people at risk — both those in the communities they are traveling to and those they might encounter along the way, including border patrol agents.
“We have lost 11 personnel in the line of duty because of COVID. Eleven. Right now we still have over a thousand CBP employees that are [actively] positive for COVID,” said Morgan.
“Yet the cartels and the immigrants themselves are putting their own desires, their own needs, ahead of the lives of our workforce as well as American citizens that they’re coming into contact [with] once they cross.”
U.S. land borders with both Canada and Mexico have been closed to non-essential travel since March, with closures most recently renewed until September 21.
August saw the highest number of encounters since the fiscal year began last October — 49,594 according to the CBP.
Border apprehensions increased across the entire southern border by 8,500 apprehensions or 22 percent since July, and the Texas sectors specifically increased by 7,100 apprehensions or 31 percent higher than the previous month.
The climb in the number of apprehensions was highest in the Rio Grande sector in South Texas, which increased from 7,500 in July to 10,200 in August.
Like the rest of the border, the August apprehensions in the Rio Grande were the highest since last year.
However, the number of single adults — instead of families or unaccompanied children — accounted for 83 percent of the apprehensions in August as opposed to 59 percent last October.
This trend, which has been seen across the entire border, was noted by Morgan earlier this year.
“Most illegal alien encounters between ports of entry are now single adult men from Mexico, whereas last year the majority of illegal aliens encountered were families from the Northern Triangle,” said Morgan in June.
Morgan also pointed out at the press conference that the number of drug seizures along the border has increased by 56 percent from July and by four percent from last year.
“What’s really noticeable is we’ve seen an incredible increase in methamphetamine across the board,” said Morgan.
He said that from month-to-month, there has been an almost 70 percent increase in methamphetamine seizures.
“Right here in Laredo, just five seizures have yielded 1,900 pounds of methamphetamine, worth more than 34 million [dollars],” said Morgan.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.