Updated 6:35 p.m.
A 36-year-old Laredo man has been charged with human smuggling after 54 immigrants were found Tuesday night in a refrigerated trailer on the northeast side of San Antonio, near Broadway and Loop 410. It’s the third time a trailer carrying migrants in the country illegally was found in the Alamo City since last July.
At a news conference Wednesday, Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge Shane Folden said the immigrants were being interviewed, and most of them were from México, Guatemala, El Salvador and Brazil.
He did not say where the trailer came from or where it was headed to. The driver, Gerardo Carillon of Laredo, was arrested and has had an initial hearing in federal court. The Associated Press reports he has been charged with human smuggling.
Out of the 54 people, five were taken to the hospital for minor injuries. Four have been released and one is currently still at the hospital. The immigrants were taken to an undisclosed location by VIA bus after being provided pizza and water by San Antonio fire fighters.
Folden said some immigrants may be considered material witnesses in this case.
“That’s really a decision of the court where those individuals remain pending trial, and the other individuals will likely be put into a removal process,” he said.
In July, nearly 40 migrants were found in the trailer at the southside Walmart. Ten died from heat-related injuries. Survivors were charged as material witnesses. The driver in that case, 61-year-old James Matthew Bradley Jr., was sentenced to life in prison earlier this year.
In December, San Antonio police found another trailer near Splashtown. Those migrants were released to catholic charities. At the time, Police Chief William McManus made the decision to charge the incident at the state level instead of federal.
“I can’t specially tell you what specific decisions were made between the two events,” Folden said. “I can tell you that this incident turned out very well and it was a very good example of all the entities involved.”
Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services has an agreement with San Antonio to be called in events of human smuggling after the deaths in July. However, Jenny Hixon, the director of education and outreach, said while they were called to the scene they were not allowed to speak to the migrants.
“If we’re really looking out for the wellbeing of the folks that are in these sorts of situations, then each agency — including HSI — should want to make sure that every person in this situation knows all of their rights. There’s no reason to not let legal advocates speak to these folks,” Hixon said. “It just doesn’t make any sense.”
Joey Palacios can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @joeycules