Immigration officials turning to families of victims in trailer smuggling case for leads

10 dead in Sunday's big rig human smuggling discovery

SAN ANTONIO – Tracking down the leaders of the groups involved in the latest human smuggling case will take the cooperation of the victims and their families, according to a former immigration investigator.

Ten people died; a total of 39 were found in a hot trailer Sunday.

Law enforcement officials and Homeland Security investigators are already following leads on the case. Harry Jimenez, deputy chief of the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, is confident arrests will be made in a few weeks.

Jimenez, who was an Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent for nearly three decades, said the groups that work to smuggle people across borders have a loose network, which makes it difficult to track the true leaders.

“Throughout crossing each country and each border, you encounter a different organization, a different group of smugglers,” he said. “That's what makes this a little more challenging because you’re not looking at one straight shot of one payment to the person responsible.”

Jimenez said the family members of the victims will become valuable to investigators offering information of who they have been in contact with to pay for the transportation.

“Smugglers have zero respect for human value. They don’t look at the individual they are bringing as persons. They're just a way to make money,” he said.

Federal investigators have eyes and ears in each of the countries south of the border. They are already working leads on who’s involved in the smuggling case. But the groups are quietly operating in our own backyard.

“We suspect there are a good number of stash houses across San Antonio,” Jimenez said. “The problem with stash houses is that they can be anywhere. There's no profile for stash houses.”

The same day the trailer was located, ICE raided a house in the city, where 11 undocumented immigrants were found. ICE said the raid was not related to the deadly trailer case.

Jimenez is urging victims who were able to escape the trailer and have information about the smugglers responsible for the deaths to make an anonymous call to ICE at 866-347-2423, or the BCSO tip line at 210-335-8477.

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