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26 migrants found in "big money" human smuggling operation near San Antonio

26 migrants found in "big money" human smuggling operation near San Antonio
26 migrants found in "big money" human smuggling operation near San Antonio 01:13

BEXAR COUNTY — Twenty-six migrants were found in an apparent human smuggling operation near San Antonio. 

Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said Thursday they were found inside a residence — a "shack" with buckets for toilets and no air conditioning or running water.

"It's miserable conditions in there and it's just blazing hot," Salazar told reporters. "Fortunately, we were able to get these people before any of them passed as a result."

Eleven of the migrants were taken to the hospital for heat-related and minor injuries, he said.

The people were found after law enforcement received information about a smuggling operation involving a trailer. They followed that trailer, where Salazar said migrants were packed into a false compartment underneath for about three hours before they were unloaded to the residence. 

Salazar confirmed one migrant is from Guatemala but authorities haven't confirmed the other migrants' nationalities. 

"It's possible that we have others from other countries, but just her, we know for a fact she paid $16,000 to be smuggled to this point," he said. "So, I mean, if you just got one of these people paying 16 grand and there's 26 smuggling victims, this is a big money operation."

Bulletproof vests and rifles were also found, Salazar said, adding that the operation was "clearly cartel related." Seven suspects have been arrested.

"We do believe that it's part of a larger operation that's been in existence for some time," Salazar said. 

This comes just days after President Biden's new restrictions on asylum seekers entering the U.S. was unveiled.

Salazar said it's unclear whether the people who were found came over the border on Thursday or were already in a "stash house" in another part of Texas. He said he believes they were coming from the Laredo area, which is along the U.S.-Mexico border.

"We don't know if they were smuggled across against their will," he said.

"This is the fault of the blood-thirsty organizations that are bringing these people across and putting them in harm's way," he added.

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