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Texas Border Patrol officers on Thursday discovered three migrants locked in a toolbox while inspecting a vehicle at a border checkpoint.
El Paso Border Patrol Chief Gloria Chavez said a “ruthless smuggler” had locked the migrants in the metal toolboxes and transported them in “extreme summer heat”.
Officers discovered the migrants during a secondary inspection of a black Chevrolet Silverado with a New Mexico license plate after a K-9 officer warned them about the back of the truck.
The truck driver, a U.S. citizen, told officers he had some marijuana and a gun on him, the CBP said. The officers asked him what was in the toolbox and he told them he had no keys to open it. Officers arrested the driver and pry open the padlocks on the toolbox, revealing the migrants crammed inside with limited oxygen.
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The CBP identified the migrants as Honduran citizens, all men. They were medically examined and found to be in good health.
The driver was arrested and charged with conspiracy to transport. It is not clear what became of the migrants after they were discovered.
“Threatening human lives by using dangerous and despicable smuggling tactics is the modus operandi of transnational criminal organizations,” Chavez said in a statement. “Often, smuggled migrants are confined in confined spaces with limited oxygen.”
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The incident took place just days after 53 migrants were found dead in an abandoned tractor-trailer on the outskirts of San Antonio.