Smugglers left three illegal immigrants to die in New Mexico
Federal prosecutors have brought charges against smugglers they say led a group of 11 illegal immigrants into the U.S., then abandoned three of them to their deaths when they were unable to keep up with the group.
Border Patrol agents were alerted by a family member of one of the migrants in the group, who said they were lost in remote deserts in southern New Mexico and had run out of water. Some people in the group had already died, the caller said.
Responding agents found seven migrants, including the two men they pinned as the smuggling guides. The agents then backtracked to find three dead bodies the smugglers had abandoned.
One of the smuggling suspects, Jose Luis Aguilera-Guzman, told agents they’d been walking for three days when two of their group gave up and couldn’t go on. He said he left them food and water and told them to wait an hour before calling for help in order to give his group time to clear out, according to court documents.
Soon after, a third person gave up, and Mr. Aguilera told them to go back and join the other two.
Mr. Aguilera told agents he “lost” another migrant along the way but couldn’t recall how or when.
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He told agents that he was an illegal immigrant himself and was acting as a guide in order to pay off the fees for his own smuggling journey into the U.S.
The second man charged, Jesus David Nunez-Monreal, denied involvement in leading the group. But agents say that when they searched his phone, they found a conversation where he revealed details of the operation and asked someone to dial 911 and report the group’s location so they could be rescued.
The deaths came less than a month after 53 illegal immigrants died from heat exposure while packed into the back of a semi-truck on a 100-degree day in San Antonio, Texas.
Homeland Security set a record for deaths recorded at the border last year, and the United Nations says the U.S.-Mexico boundary was the deadliest international border in the world last year. This year’s death toll is keeping pace.
Mr. Aguilera and Mr. Nunez each face charges of conspiracy to bring aliens into the U.S., and smuggling resulting in death.