Truck Driver Pleads Guilty In Human Smuggling Operation That Cooked Immigrants Alive

REUTERS/Ray Whitehouse

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
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A 61-year-old truck driver admitted Monday to carrying out a human smuggling operation that led to the deaths of 10 illegal immigrants trapped inside a sweltering semi-trailer earlier this summer.

James M. Bradley pleaded guilty to one count of of conspiracy to transport aliens resulting in death and one count of transporting aliens resulting in death, according to an announcement from the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas. Bradley, who will be sentenced in January, now faces a life prison term.

Police arrested Bradley in July after they discovered 39 people in and around his truck, which was parked near a San Antonio Walmart. By the time first responders arrived on the scene, eight illegal immigrants were already dead and two more would later die at the hospital.

Survivors told immigration agents that the semi-trailer’s air conditioning unit had broken down, turning the rig into a giant broiler that literally cooked people alive in the South Texas summer heat. According to the criminal complaint against Bradley Jr., the illegal immigrants were forced to take turns breathing through a hole as oxygen ran out inside the trailer.

Bradley initially denied knowing that there were people in the trailer as he drove from Laredo, Texas to San Antonio. He later admitted to conspiring with another man “to transport … undocumented aliens in the United States for financial gain,” according to prosecutors.

Shane M. Folden, the special agent in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s San Antonio field office, said the case “is a glaring reminder that alien smugglers are driven by greed and have little regard for the health and well-being of their human cargo, which can prove to be a deadly combination.”

Bradley’s co-conspirator, Pedro Silva-Segura, also faces charges in connection with the case and is currently in federal custody. Silva-Segura is an illegal immigrant from Mexico who had been living in Laredo.

The case has drawn attention the increasing frequency of cross-border human smuggling in semi-trailers. The Border Patrol in the Rio Grande Valley says more than 600 illegal immigrants were found being transported in big rigs during fiscal year 2017, which ended Sept 30.

During the prior fiscal year, Border Patrol found about 350 immigrants in semi-trailers, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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