HSI: More smugglers show 'complete disregard for human life'

Cartels blamed for increase in torture, extortion

SAN ANTONIO – One of federal agencies that responded to last month’s rescue of nearly 40 immigrants from the back of a tractor-trailer in Frio County, reports it was the largest such incident so close to San Antonio, just over an hour away.

Aristides Jimenez, deputy special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations, said had it not been for the witnesses who called 911, instead of 30 something individuals, we may have had 30 something bodies.”
Jimenez says it’s a constant risk given the thousands of trucks coming up from the nation’s largest inland port in Laredo.

“It’s a gamble for smugglers and for the people who are at their mercy” Jimenez said.

He said now that powerful cartels control human smuggling operations, the agency has seen an increase in reports of cruelty, torture and extortion.

Body cameras worn by Frio County deputies that day captured in graphic detail the shocking conditions endured by men, women and children inside the sweltering semi.

“This is the reality of these individuals facing death, risking their lives to come to our country,” Jimenez said.

According to a federal affidavit, the alleged driver, Drew Potter, 33, told authorities he’d made only three trips, never realizing what he was transporting.

Jimenez said arresting Potter at the scene, “That’s a plus. Doesn’t always happen that way.”

About the Author:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.