55 Found Inside Tractor-Trailer in Suspected Smuggling Operation

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Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

The people found in the trailer form a line to move to a transportation vehicle.

Law enforcement authorities discovered dozens of people, apparently in good health, inside an air-conditioned tractor-trailer Tuesday night in North San Antonio, according to media reports.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) stated Wednesday afternoon that 54 people suspected of being smuggled into the country were transported by the driver, Gerardo Carreon, 36. He is expected "to be federally charged with human smuggling," according to ICE.

KSAT-TV reported that first responders arrived at the 8400 block of Laurelcrest Place at 8:30 p.m. and found the people who are suspected of being smuggled into the country.

Adelina Pruneda, public affairs officer for ICE, said the Department of Homeland Security was investigating the incident on scene.

Five suffered minor injuries, reportedly while trying to flee from law enforcement, and one remained in the hospital Wednesday afternoon. ICE stated that the men, women, and minors traveled from Brazil, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico.

The discovery of the trailer came less than one year after authorities discovered undocumented immigrants who had been trapped in a tractor-trailer with no ventilation or water. Ten of the trailer's occupants ultimately died and others were hospitalized with injuries from heat exposure. James Matthew Bradley Jr., the driver of the truck found in a Walmart parking lot on San Antonio's Southwest Side, in April was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

In December 2017, the San Antonio Police Department released 12 people found inside a tractor-trailer on the city's East Side and arrested its driver. SAPD Chief William McManus came under criticism for his decision to release the trailer's occupants, but said that federal officials at the scene declined to take the individuals into custody.

On Tuesday night, police reportedly searched each individual before transporting them away from the scene, some by VIA bus. Authorities cleared the scene shortly after midnight.

Jennifer Hixon, director of education and community outreach for Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), said that the organization sent two attorneys and two social workers to the scene to offer legal services and evaluations. However, Homeland Security officials did not allow RAICES to speak with any of the detainees.

Hixon added that she did not know where the individuals had been taken once they were transported from the scene.

HSI Special Agent in Charge Shane M. Folden said at a Wednesday afternoon press conference that RAICES was not permitted to speak to the detainees because "it was a fluid crime scene."

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