Texas Border Patrol agent has been charged with human trafficking after more than 180 migrants were found in three stash houses earlier this month.
The unnamed Laredo Sector Border Patrol agent was arrested on May 21. Their arrest occurred after a grand jury indicted them for felony offenses “related to transporting undocumented individuals for private gain,” a statement from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) said.
The agent, who joined the Border Patrol in 2008, has been placed on “indefinite suspension” as the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Texas investigates.
The suspect’s arrest comes nearly a month after U.S. legal authorities discovered over 180 Central American immigrants living in “stash houses” in Laredo. Laredo is a Texas city on the U.S. southern border.
On May 4, legal authorities discovered 68 undocumented immigrants living in one house. On that same day, authorities located a second house containing 50 undocumented individuals. Later that same evening, authorities then found a third house with 65 undocumented people.
“Stash houses continue to be a threat to national security and to the citizens of our nation, not only because of their use by criminal organizations but they are also a danger to the people they exploit by concealing them in dilapidated close quarters such as these,” the CBP said in a statement.
None of the individuals at the houses had been wearing personal protective equipment to prevent them from acquiring COVID-19.
The individuals were identified as nationals of El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico, according to the CBP. The CBP also said that the people had all been held against their will.
It was unclear if the stash houses were in any way connected to the unnamed Border Patrol officer charged with human trafficking on May 21.
Human trafficking often involves the recruitment, transportation and harboring of people by means of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of exploitation, according to the United Nations documents on trafficking.
Anywhere from 14,500 to 17,500 people are trafficked into the U.S. each year, according to the U.S. State Department.
Traffickers often lure people with promises of good jobs, education, economic security and love, according to Justice for Immigrants, a U.S. Catholic immigration reform organization.Trafficking victims can then be held against their wills while traffickers try to sell them as laborers or sex workers.
Traffickers can also try to extort money from victims’ families and friends or threaten them with violence and legal action if they don’t pay.