Border Patrol teaching student truck drivers how to spot human smugglers

Operation Big Rig guiding future truck drivers about the risks

MCALLEN, Texas – The Border Patrol is warning future truck drivers about the risks they will soon have to be aware of once they receive their commercial license.

“We need to stand up and we need to fight this,” Border Patrol agent Omar Cavazos said.

Cavazos showed a handful of student truck drivers the “Operation Big Rig” presentation that included KSAT’s report this past May.

RELATED: 'Operation Big Rig' targets human smugglers

The report included graphic bodycam footage by a San Antonio police officer, capturing what he saw inside the semitrailer in a Walmart parking lot in July 2017.

It was released just weeks after James Matthew Bradley Jr., 61, was sentenced to life in prison without parole for his role in July 2017’s human-smuggling operation that resulted in the deaths of 10 people.

RELATED: James Bradley sentenced to life in prison in human smuggling deaths

“You're not used to seeing that much, it's death, (but) that's what it is,” Cavazos told the students. “We would hate for anything like what you saw in these videos to happen.”

Operation Big Rig’s PowerPoint presentation was also created to teach future truck drivers to be vigilant and do more than just check whether their rig is road worthy.

On Tuesday, Border Patrol officials said agents rescued 30 undocumented immigrants at two separate Laredo checkpoints found inside a tractor-trailer.

Border Patrol said when rigs are unlocked, unwanted passengers are known to climb in at truck stops or hide behind windjammers.

“No human life, no human death is worth any money that they’re going to offer you,” said Justin Houpt, a student truck driver. “It’s bad. People do it but money is the root of all evil and money is the cause of all that.”

READ: KSAT crew makes dangerous trek across Brooks County in migrants' footsteps

Leticia Quintanilla, a student truck driver, said she has no business getting into any sort of situation in which someone offers her money to break the law.

Quintanilla has two reasons for not doing so: "To save the lives (of the immigrants) and I don’t want to be in trouble with the law."

About the Authors:

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.