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Lead agency on Texas migrant train deaths fears smuggling incidents could continue

As the weather trends warmer, Homeland Security Investigations said box cars can become death traps for migrants riding inside.

SAN ANTONIO — After the deaths of three migrants in presumed human smuggling incidents in Knippa and Eagle Pass, we spoke with the lead agency on the case about smuggling on the Texas-Mexico border. 

Craig Larrabee is the acting special agent in charge for the Department of Homeland Security Investigations in San Antonio. The agency investigates transnational organized crime, specifically the movement of goods or people across the border illegally.

Currently, HSI is investigating the most recent cases of human smuggling on trains. On Tuesday, Larrabee couldn't speak on either case but said anytime a death is involved in an investigation the agency utilizes all of their resources to find the people responsible and hold them accountable.

The agency's purpose is to dismantle the organizations they investigate. The more criminal groups HSI can dissolve, the more lives they believe can be saved from danger or even death while attempting to cross the border.

"Yes, because those are the organizations that are controlling this that are putting people in dangerous situations," said Larrabee.

Larrabee said smugglers always change how they transport migrants to get a step ahead of law enforcement. He said migrants on trains are becoming more of a common occurrence. 

Larrabee said trains can pose challenges for investigators because it's likely very few people know the migrants are inside the box cars. Some shipping containers also lock from the outside, trapping people inside a steel enclosure. As the weather trends warmer, the container can becoming a sweltering death trap.

"It's a very dangerous situation. We fear this could continue," said Larrabee.

That's why awareness of the dangers of human smuggling is important. Larrabee said smugglers only care about maximizing their profit and not the individual they are transporting. His message is simple: Don't engage.

"Those organizations aren't going to treat your loved one with respect. They are not going to treat them as human beings. They treat them as a commodity and we encourage you not to engage with a criminal organization."

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