Trucker Says He Was Forced to Transport Migrants at Gunpoint

A truck driver in Texas arrested for smuggling migrants claims that he was forced to transfer them at gunpoint.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has cited smuggling and drug operations perpetrated by illegal immigrants as reasons for leveraging Texas National Guard soldiers and Texas Department of Public Safety personnel to combat the record 2.4 million migrant encounters at the United States-Mexico border during the 2023 fiscal year—an increase of about 1.7 million compared to the year before.

A provision within Senate Bill 4, the Texas law allowing the state to enforce its own immigration authority separate from the federal government that has historically done so, would increase the minimum sentence for migrant smugglers or people operating a stash house from two years to 10 years for those convicted.

Luis Enrique Lara, a truck driver from Laredo, was arrested on March 24 at a highway checkpoint and later charged with transport, attempting to transport, and conspiring to transport migrants, according to an affidavit obtained by the Laredo Morning Times.

Newsweek reached out to Laredo Police and the Webb County Sheriff’s Office multiple times via phone and email for comment.

The affidavit says that at about 9:27 p.m. while stopped at the Interstate 35 checkpoint, a K-9 unit alerted law enforcement to possible contraband hidden inside Lara’s white trailer.

Officers allegedly discovered three migrants hiding underneath pillows inside the trailer, which Lara said had just been picked up and, to his knowledge, contained no migrants or other individuals.

According to the affidavit, Lara told authorities that he was approached about one month prior to his arrest at a gas station in Katy by an individual identified as “Luis.” The individual, whose potential ties to the suspect remain unknown, allegedly held Lara at gunpoint and told him to comply with demands.

On March 21, multiple individuals purportedly went to his house and ordered him to transport migrants to San Antonio. He said he was instructed to drive his trailer to mile marker 13 of Interstate 35 at about 9 p.m. on March 24, when he was ultimately detained.

The driver later told authorities that he “had a feeling” the migrants in the trailer were illegally in the United States, per the affidavit.

Worries about human and drug smuggling at the southern border have been expressed by countless politicians and national officials, including former United Nations ambassador and White House National Security Adviser John Bolton.

Laredo Migrant
A Webb County Sheriff’s officer and U.S. Border Patrol agent arrest a man smuggling migrants on October 12, 2022, in Laredo, Texas. A Laredo trucker claims that he was recently forced to smuggle three migrants.


“I’m very worried that the border is so open,” Bolton told Newsweek earlier this week. “We know already criminal drug cartels have been exploiting the weaknesses in our border protection. I’m worried terrorists may come across the border. Since it’s safer than going through airports and customs stations, you could have espionage agents from foreign governments.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray has also testified in front of U.S. Senate and House committees about terrorists potentially entering the country with fake IDs and essentially falling off the grid and out of view of federal agencies tasked to monitor and deter illegal immigration flows.

Abbott, who has been rebuked by some religious leaders in the state for how migrants are being characterized, met with House Speaker Mike Johnson on Thursday and urged him and his conference to reconsider border legislation believed to curb illegal entries between ports of entry.

“Immigration remains a top political issue, with former President [Donald] Trump seeing it as a powerful tool to potentially win the next election,” Denny Salas, a political strategist and senior vice president of Gotham Government Relations, told Newsweek. “Republicans have blocked bipartisan legislation on this topic, likely because they want Trump to be able to use it as an election issue.”

The future of immigration-based policies will depend on who wins in November, Salas added. A Trump victory could mean legislation post-inauguration.

“However, if President Biden is reelected, the GOP may be more willing to revisit the bipartisan Senate bill, recognizing Biden will be in office for four more years and that legislation incorporates a number of their legislative priorities addressing this issue,” he said.