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Human smuggling getting worse at border, experts say

It's a dangerous situation for migrants in the vehicles, and the innocent U.S. citizens caught in the crossfire, according to the Kinney County Sheriff’s Office.

BRACKETTVILLE, Texas — Human smuggling is on the rise across the border. It’s a dangerous situation for the migrants in those vehicles, and the innocent U.S. citizens caught in the crossfire, according to the Kinney County Sheriff’s Office.

A deputy's dash cam video shows a recent incident where a suspected human smuggler led deputies on a high-speed chase, reaching speeds of up to 100 mph.

Deputies finally caught up the driver off the main street in Brackettville, just blocks away from Brackett ISD schools.

When the driver stopped, at least five migrants jumped from the truck and fled the scene.

Law enforcement was able to arrest the driver and apprehend some of the migrants.

This is just one example of the surge in human smuggling in border counties like Kinney, Real, Uvalde, Edwards and Val Verde.

“The smugglers have a complete disregard for human life. They don't care about the safety and security or comfort of the individuals that they're transporting,” said Artistides “Harry” Jimenez, a former federal agent.

The uptick in smuggling brings high-speed chases, rollover accidents and crashes.

On Monday, a suspected smuggler fled from authorities in Val Verde County, and led officers on a high speed chase for more than 50 miles, according to a federal criminal complaint filed with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Western District of Texas.

The chase ended when, the driver, 24-year-old Sebastian Tovar, hit another truck head-on.

Eight migrants died in the crash, and an 11-year-old girl and her father, riding in the other truck, were seriously injured.

Shortly after the fatal crash, cell phone video shared with KENS 5 showed suspected migrants running from another truck while authorities shut down the roadway.

According to the court documents, officials apprehended all 12 migrants in that truck who told authorities the truck they were riding in was part of a failed smuggling attempt with the truck Tovar was driving.

Tovar has been charged with human smuggling and the deaths of the eight migrants and is facing life in prison if convicted, according to federal officials.

“These individuals are endangering everyone on the roadways, and they have complete disregard for human life,” said Jimenez.

Jimenez spent more than 30 years as an investigator with the Department of Homeland Security, covering the border from the Rio Grande Valley to Del Rio.

He said since President Joe Biden has taken office, the criminal smuggling organizations are spreading the word to come now to the United States because the President will offer amnesty.

“The smugglers are telling the individuals all through Central America that this is the moment to make the journey,” said Jimenez.

Jimenez said the criminal organizations use vehicles gutted on the inside, and mostly in disrepair.

“Most of the vehicles that they use for smuggling ventures are always in bad shape,” said Jimenez. “Bad tires, overloaded, bad drivers, inexperienced drivers, is a total recipe for disaster.”

On March 4, a rollover accident in Val Verde County ended with one migrant dead, and the 18-year-old driver from Austin, in jail.

Jimenez said the smuggling rings often recruit younger drivers.

“We have noticed that smuggling organizations are trying to recruit younger drivers, understanding that they have a better chance if they get caught, to be released because they have no criminal history, no criminal record,” said Jimenez. “So, they’re gambling.”

Due to the interchanges of major highways, Jimenez said if they make it past authorities along the border, they are most likely headed for San Antonio.

“San Antonio is the perfect location for this organization to trans-ship their human cargo,” said Jimenez. “Once they're here, they start dividing people and send them to east, west and north. And, this is why you're going to see more and more of these individuals driving with no care for the public with very bad vehicles.”