People smugglers are now using small planes to transport dangerous illegal immigrants across the US-Mexico border, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.
The method is becoming more prominent and over the past 30 days, the DPS has intercepted three plane-smuggling attempts at different small airports in the Rio Grande Valley area. According to officials, dangerous migrants with serious criminal convictions may opt to fly across the border rather than risk rejection because of their criminal record at one of the processing centers.
Officials say the gangs fly the small aircrafts into remote airports where security levels are very low, making it difficult for Border Agents to detect every plane:
“We’re seeing an increase [of plane smuggling incidents],” said Texas Highway Patrol Staff Lieutenant Christopher Olivarez.
“It’s started to become more common. But … these are small, private airports. They’re not using the larger airports where there’s TSA. These are the smaller airports where you don’t have the security measures in place for private planes. It’s kind of hard to … do surveillance at every single airport.”
Olivarez went on to explain that some of the migrants on the planes simply want to by-pass the busy routes on foot and fast track their way into the country while others may be attempting to avoid authority for more sinister reasons:
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“There’s more people coming in, and the more people you have coming in, of course, they want to find more ways to make it into the interior,” he said.
“But what’s unique is…you have to understand the different between the people who are being smuggled on planes — those are people who have not been processed. Those are people who are trying to avoid detection.”
Border Agents refer to those who purposefully slip away into the US undetected as ‘gotaways’, and hundreds of thousands of unlawful migrants are estimated to have made it into the country without going through the processing system.
In 2022 alone, around 500,000 illegal migrants disappeared into the US, by the law of averages alone, a percentage will be violent criminals and possibly even terrorists. Their desperate desire to skip the processing checks warrants reason enough to be concerned about their motives and backgrounds.
On Sunday, the DPS caught a smuggling plane at Mid Valley Airport. There were seven people on board the plane – 6 illegal immigrants and a female US citizen. One of the illegal immigrants on the plane had been deported from Mexico and was wanted in Wisconsin on a child sex assault charge.
In August, the DPS intercepted another plane carrying 12 illegal immigrants while last month another 19 were caught having flown across. The DPS said that people smuggling gangs legally charter small planes and a pilot as chartered pilots are not required to check passengers’ immigration status.
“A lot of times, they don’t even know what’s going on,” said Olivarez about the pilots. “They’re just told, ‘Okay, I’m going to charter this plane. We’re going to pick up this many passengers from this airport, and we’re going to take them to this airport.’ That’s it.“
Criminal smuggling gangs often demand huge sums of money, sometimes up to $10,000 a ‘client’ with the promise that they will ferry them across the border. Once inside the US, the gangs then transport the migrants to different areas of Texas.
“My question would be: Who can afford a private [plane]? Even just a propeller. I’ve seen the pictures of the aircraft that are being used. So, who can afford that?”, said Retired Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent and Texas congressional candidate Frank Lopez Jr.
“Who is involved with this? And the people that are being smuggled — are these your run-of-the-mill illegal aliens? Or is there something special about them? Is there something that makes them a higher value package, per se?
“These are people who are not wanting to walk up to a National Guardsman, say, ‘Here I am,'” which tells him that those people chartering plans “either have money, or they’re going to owe a lot of money.”