In shadows of Maxwell trial, sex traffickers continue to exploit porous southern border

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers continue to arrest child molesters, sex offenders, and human smugglers.

Published: December 30, 2021 3:32pm

Updated: December 30, 2021 11:01pm

The trial and conviction of Ghislaine Maxwell handed anti-sex trafficking advocates a big victory this week and focused public attention for a short while on a heinous criminal scourge. But in the case’s shadows, a painful reality plays out at America’s southern border, where U.S. Border Patrol agents almost daily encounter bad actors in the illicit sex trades.

The holidays were no exception.

A few days before Christmas, over a 24-hour period, Laredo Sector Border Patrol agents intercepted three human smuggling attempts which resulted in the apprehension of over 70 foreign nationals illegally in the U.S. They also recovered a stolen vehicle, and a methamphetamine seizure north of Laredo, Texas.

One smuggling attempt involved a stolen commercial tractor-trailer, in which agents discovered 52 people from Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador who’d entered the U.S. illegally and were heading north. Other thwarted smuggling attempts involved an SUV with seven Mexicans, and another vehicle with 12 Mexicans and Guatemalans inside, all being brought north from the southern border, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency.

All of the individuals, including the drivers were taken into CBP custody. Of the operation, the Laredo Sector said its agents “will continue to keep our country and communities safe from dangerous criminals.” 

Laredo agents also stopped a human smuggling attempt south of Hebbronville, Texas, apprehending 14 people from Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras, and El Salvador. They were crammed into one car, some packed like sardines in the trunk, being brought north. After a vehicle pursuit, some bailed out and absconded into the brush, north of the community of Guerra, Texas. Those apprehended were taken into CBP custody.  

Two days before Christmas, Eagle Pass Station agents arrested a Honduran national who in 2018 was convicted of sexual assault of a child and sentenced to four years in prison. He was removed from the U.S. in 2020 only to reenter illegally.

On the same day, Brackettville Station agents arrested a Mexican national who had a previous criminal conviction for lewd or lascivious acts with a minor child under 14, in 1999. The man was sentenced to six years in prison, was deported in 2019, only to reenter the U.S. illegally again.

“These arrests highlight the importance of border security and what it means for you,” Del Rio Sector Chief Patrol Agent Jason D. Owens said in a statement. “Border Patrol agents stand between good people and those who would do them harm. No matter the circumstances, they remain dedicated to keeping criminals like these out of your communities.”

On Christmas Eve, Border Patrol agents working with Texas DPS officers apprehended five people being smuggled inside an SUV near Mission, Texas. One included a 12-year-old female Mexican national. The driver, a Mexican national, attempt to run away, but he was caught and arrested.

U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, has for the last year been expressing outrage over the Biden administration’s open border policies and has called for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to be impeached for failing to keep his oath to secure the border. Ongoing illegal immigration poses a danger to American citizens and to the migrants making the dangerous journey, he argues.

"Look, the pictures I've seen of little girls with brands burned on their bodies, because they've been abused by the cartels, the little girls that are sold into the sex trafficking trade. We know this, we interview them and we find out they've been raped on the journey through Mexico,” he told John Solomon Reports podcast in an interview earlier this year.

The day after Christmas, Harlingen Police officers received a 911 call from a Guatemalan who’d entered the U.S. illegally claiming he and others were being held against their will in a house. Harlingen Border Patrol Station agents and the police went to the house and found seven people who they took into custody. They’d been reportedly held by a Honduran citizen, who will be prosecuted under state charges, CBP said in a statement.

In another apprehension, Border Patrol agents aided by a K9 found four El Salvadorans hiding between pallets inside a trailer hauled by a commercial truck after it had stopped at a Customs and Border Protection check point. The trailer was closed with a metal wire from the outside and those inside wouldn’t have been able to get out on their own.

Last month, CBP officers working at the Presidio, Texas, port of entry made a big bust by catching an American citizen with an outstanding warrant for trafficking children for sexual purposes. She was driving a car coming from Mexico with four passengers inside. After conducting primary inspections on the vehicle and its occupants, and learning of her outstanding warrant, she was taken into custody and handed over to the Presidio Police Department.

In the same week as her arrest, CBP officers apprehended 31 people wanted for crimes including dangerous drugs, larceny, robbery, fraud, assault, escape from custody, alien smuggling, sexual assault of a child and sexual offense of a child. 

“The alleged trafficking of innocent children for sexual purposes is a heinous charge,” CBP El Paso Director of Field Operations Hector A. Mancha said. “CBP collaborates with other law enforcement agencies to bring those who commit crimes to justice.”  

These apprehensions exclude large confiscations of narcotics over the same time period. They also represent a small percentage of those who are caught entering the U.S. illegally, agents estimate. The majority who evade capture, known as “got-aways,” seek to avoid border patrol check points altogether.  

Former CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan told the John Solomon Reports podcast recently that up to 30 percent of young women and children are being abused on their way to the border.

"Border Patrol agents can tell you countless examples of where they've interviewed a 12, 14-year- old girl that was raped multiple times coming up here,” he said. “And that's why I say the most inhumane thing that this country could do is have open border policies for illegal immigration.

"It just increases that tragedy that you cannot take back. You cannot undo a migrant that died, you can't undo a young woman that was raped multiple times, the best we could do is prevent it to stop it. And that is to secure our borders and stem the flow of illegal immigration," Morgan added.

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