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Insight on how smugglers operate by retired homeland security special agent

A spotlight has been placed on human smuggling, particularly after more than 50 people died in the back of an 18-wheeler in southwest San Antonio.

SAN ANTONIO — Monday's horrific scene where 51 people died after being left in the back of an 18 wheeler has put human smuggling back in the spotlight.

To gain some insight on this case and how smugglers operate, we spoke to retired Homeland Security Special Agent Timothy Tubbs.

Special Agent Tubbs broke down how a tragic incident like this is investigated. He said agents immediately start with the crime scene. They try to identify material witnesses, try to identify the people involved. "But ultimately...they will get the leads that they need and work with foreign counterparts to identify the entire smuggling organization from the point of origin in the home countries to the transit countries...and make those criminal prosecutions."

He said that when you look at these smuggling organizations, they start with a whole country like Brazil, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico. "And they recruit those individuals in their home country and they charge them...from their home country through all the transit countries to the border of Mexico. And they put their lives in danger," he said.

In this incident where 51 people died, there have been reports of the migrants covered in steak seasoning as a way to disguise their scent in avoidance of K-9 detection. We asked Special Agent Tubbs more about smuggling and the things people do to cross the border.

"If you look at migrants from Mexico, they pay anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 per person to be smuggled. Central Americans pay anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000. And if you look at other countries such as China, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, etc., they'll pay up to $40,000 to be smuggled to the U.S.," he said. "Once they get to the border of the U.S., then they bring them across through small numbers; one, two, three people at a time. And then they put them in stash houses in the U.S."

He said the stash houses have no electricity or water. These people barely eat and they are locked inside until they pay their final fees to come to America.

"Once they get a truck driver who is willing to drive them for a fee, then they load them in the back of a semi-truck with probably over 100 migrants," Special Agent Tubbs said. "And again, no air conditioning, no water. And they try to drive them three hours to San Antonio in a 110 degree heat where they take them out of the trailers and they put them in cars and take to the final destination."

We closed with a question asking about how much pressure is being put on Mexico to stop human smuggling as we're seeing huge caravans coming from the border with the Mexican government giving them bus transportation up to the northern border.

Special Agent Tubbs said, "The U.S. government actually has put a lot of pressure on the Mexican government and the Mexican government has stepped up their efforts in Mexico."

He said the Mexican government is working with Homeland Security on investigations. He also said we have a solid team of U.S. border security and can "tackle the migrant smuggling throughout central and throughout Central South America and Mexico. But, we need border security between the ports of entry. Anything that comes across the border between the ports of entry is illegal, whether it's money, guns, humans, narcotics, even if it's hand sanitizer, it's coming across the border between the ports of entry is because there's an issue with."

Watch the full interview here:


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