Border Patrol agents find 26 illegal immigrants hiding inside tractor-trailer in California, officials say

Border Patrol agents arrested a man Wednesday after discovering 26 illegal immigrants hiding inside a tractor-trailer that was crossing into California at the U.S.-Mexico border, officials said.

Agents assigned to the El Centro Sector checkpoint on Highway 86 discovered the immigrants around 9:40 p.m. while conducting an immigration check on the 32-year-old driver, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said in a news release.

A Border Patrol canine alerted agents to the rear cargo of the tractor-trailer. The agents said they inspected the area and found 26 people inside.

Border agents found 26 smuggled immigrants inside a tractor-trailer last week. 

Border agents found 26 smuggled immigrants inside a tractor-trailer last week.  (U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

Chief Patrol Agent Gloria I. Chavez said the immigrants had no safety restraints and were locked inside in below 45-degree weather.

Teenagers were among the group. Border Patrol Agent Carlos Pitones told the Los Angeles Times that the immigrants’ ages ranged from 16 to 56.

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The driver presented agents with a California driver’s license as his own, but it was later determined to be fraudulent. The agents then determined that the driver was a Mexican national in the U.S. illegally, according to CBP.

The driver and all 26 of the smuggled immigrants were arrested.

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“This smuggling operation had no regard for the safety of the people they were smuggling,” Chavez said. “Fortunately, our agents were able to remove them from that potentially life-threatening situation.”

Pitones told the Times that the immigrants will be processed “in a case-by-case basis.”