Police in Texas’ Big Country region encountering ‘influx’ of migrants, some being left at I-20 rest stops

Immigration

ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) — Some Big Country police departments say they are seeing an influx of undocumented immigrants on Interstate 20, and some are being left unattended at nearby truck stops.

The Tye Police Department says they’ve gained more knowledge of the immigration crisis over the past few years.

“For folks who don’t know, these are carpet shoes,” Tye Police Chief Jay Strong said. “They don’t leave human footprints, they just leave the print of this.”

Strong says he has learned key indicators in spotting human smugglers. 

“Due to the pattern, and they wear full-body suits like this, we can tell you who did it, what organization did it and where they originated from,” he said. 

Strong says many smugglers come through Interstate 20, and they even pull over at the truck stops in Tye. 

“They tell them to stretch their legs, they will turn around and leave to go pick up another set of people,” Strong said. 

This leaves the others stranded.

“So, what happens is the people are left with nothing, they are here with no contact, no people, the jobs they were promised aren’t there and the next thing you know, we have these people wandering around, and that happens a lot,” Strong said.

Through Wednesday, Strong says they have apprehended 150-200 undocumented immigrants, which is normally the amount they catch in a year. 

“There has been an influx in the number of people coming illegally down our highways,” Strong said. 

“So, normally we sit right here, catch vehicles coming over the bridge,” said Assistant Tye Police Chief Eric Becerra. 

Becerra says most of the time they stop vehicles for their speed or paper license plates. 

“And we’ll catch speed coming over, it’s kind of like a surprise move,” he said. 

But sometimes they find more than just a driver with a lead foot. 

“The common indicator is paper tags,” Becerra said. 

Or other times a vehicle with more humans than seats may tip officers off. 

“They are driving down the road and they see heads pop up in a van,” Strong said. 

The Tye Police Department is not the only department in the Big Country that encounters vehicles packed with people. 

Cisco Police Chief Kenneth Preston says it adds stress to local law enforcement. 

“We don’t know what type of weapons they have, if any,” he said. 

Strong says if it means he can save people from human trafficking, then for him it’s worth it to protect the immigrants from those situations. 

Strong says once they apprehend the undocumented immigrants they turn them over to border patrol, and the people who are smuggling the immigrants are prosecuted. 

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The mission of BorderReport.com is to provide real-time delivery of the untold local stories about people living, working and migrating along the U.S. border with Mexico. The information is gathered by experienced and trusted Nexstar Media Group journalists hired specifically to cover the border.