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Texas trucker headed to prison for smuggling undocumented migrants

Driver sentenced to 41 months in federal prison for transporting 51 people in tractor-trailer

Rene Garcia, 28, of San Benito, Texas, pleaded guilty in August to charges related to transporting undocumented migrants. Garcia was arrested in Falfurrias, Texas, in May 2021. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

A Texas truck driver has been sentenced to more than three years in federal prison for illegally transporting 51 undocumented migrants in a tractor-trailer.

Rene Garcia, 28, of San Benito, Texas, pleaded guilty in August to charges related to transporting undocumented migrants stemming from a case in May, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

In handing down the sentence last week, a U.S. district judge in Corpus Christi, Texas, took into consideration Garcia had recently been convicted of transporting undocumented migrants in another case, according to a release.

Garcia was arrested on May 13, 2021, after attempting to drive a tractor-trailer carrying a shipment of onions through the Falfurrias Border Patrol Station. During a search of the vehicle, Border Patrol officers discovered 51 individuals hidden among pallets of onions in the trailer.

“At least one of the migrants reported having a difficult time breathing in the trailer and there was no way to escape in the event of an emergency,” according to the Justice Department. “Garcia later admitted to making arrangements with someone in San Benito to smuggle the undocumented migrants through the Falfurrias checkpoint and then to Houston.”

Garcia’s prison sentence will be followed by three years of supervised release.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection stopped 178,840 undocumented migrants along the Southwest land border in December, the most recent month for which data is available.

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Noi Mahoney

Noi Mahoney is a Texas-based journalist who covers cross-border trade, logistics and supply chains for FreightWaves. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English in 1998. Mahoney has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working for newspapers in Florida, Maryland and Texas. Contact [email protected]