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Three US citizens arrested over people smuggling attempts at US-Mexico border

Cars wait in line to cross the border during the reopening of the Ciudad Acuna, Coahuila - Del Rio, Texas, US, international bridge in September 2021  (AFP via Getty Images)
Cars wait in line to cross the border during the reopening of the Ciudad Acuna, Coahuila - Del Rio, Texas, US, international bridge in September 2021 (AFP via Getty Images)

United States Customs and Border Protection officers arrested three US citizens and one Mexican over five alleged people smuggling attempts within 48 hours last week.

CBP said that it had intercepted vehicles making the crossing in Del Rio, Texas, between 15 and 17 March, with drivers showing US birth certificates for those they were seeking to bring into the country.

The incidents are a sample of a wider issue at the US-Mexico border, where thousands of people from across South America, as well as Africa and Asia, have arrived, desperately seeking entry but not necessarily having the legal documentation they need.

CBP officers have been left struggling to cope with limited resources.

At around 8am on 15 March, CBP officers approached a car driven by a female US citizen, arriving from Mexico, who had presented US passports for an adult female and a minor male. However, after a second examination, officers found they were Mexican citizens without valid entry documents.

A similar incident happened in the early hours of 16 March, where a female US citizen presented a US birth certificate for a female passenger with her. Again, she was a Mexican citizen with no valid documents.

An hour later, another female-driven car with two adult males pulled up. They were posing as minors, with allegedly fake birth certificates stating they were underage Americans, when they were adult Mexicans.

Later that night, a Mexican man arrived with his wife, and officers discovered their adult son hidden in the cargo area of their vehicle. He had no valid entry documents, either.

Finally, on Sunday morning, another female US citizen pulled up to the Del Rio port of entry, with a minor female and a US birth certificate. Again, this was found to be false.

CBP officers arrested three US citizens and one Mexican citizen for allegedly violating US immigration law. Their vehicles were also seized.

“These five significant events serve as a resounding reminder that violating U.S. immigration law can carry significant legal and criminal consequences,” Port Director Liliana Flores, Del Rio Port of Entry, said in a press release.

“The skillset applied in uncovering these would-be smuggling attempts serves as a testament to our unwavering commitment to our border security mission.”

CBP did not say that it had detained those allegedly being smuggled, however, it has repeatedly urged those seeking entry into the US to do so by official means, including making appointments through the CBP One app.

However, many are arriving with few possessions, let alone a smartphone to make an appointment on.

Research in late 2023, when encounters at the border were increasing rapidly, showed that many people are fleeing increased violence or political upheaval in their home countries, while others are seeking better job prospects in the US.

However, the system has struggled to cope with the volume of people arriving and there have been multiple reports of people squeezing through gaps in the border wall or being smuggled in vehicles.

Experts have said that if that is to stop radical change is needed to speed up asylum and immigration processes, including funding more officers and judges to process cases.