EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The Mexican government is investigating a driver allegedly caught smuggling 57 Guatemalan children to the border in the back of a cargo truck.

Mexican soldiers stopped the truck Thursday at a roadside checkpoint along the Chihuahua-Juarez (Mexico 45) Highway and decided to do a more in-depth inspection. When they opened the doors, they found 69 people crowded into the back of the truck, according to a joint statement by the Mexican Army and the National Immigration Institute (INM).

The passengers included eight adult males, a mother and her daughter, 43 unaccompanied male minors and 14 unaccompanied girls. The minors were all between the ages of 14 and 17. All of them were Guatemalan nationals with no authorization to be in Mexico, the statement said.

The minors were transported to the offices of a children’s protection agency in Juarez while the driver, a Mexican national, was turned over to investigators with the Federal Attorney General’s Office. Authorities did not immediately identify the trucker.

The Mexican army checkpoint along Mexico Highway 45 where soldiers found a commercial truck trying to smuggle 57 Guatemalan children to Juarez. (photo courtesy Mexican Government)

Mexican authorities say they are increasingly finding unaccompanied minors brought to Juarez by third parties with the intent of helping them cross into the United States. INM agents between Jan. 16 and Jan. 21 took custody of 11 Central American minors (9 Guatemalans and two from El Salvador) located within walking distance of the Rio Grande.

The increase in encounters with unaccompanied foreign minors coincides with a special law-enforcement operation the INM and other Mexican government agencies started on Jan. 6 to “rescue” such children.

In 2022, Mexican authorities encountered more than 83,000 foreign minors, either with their parents or traveling unaccompanied, who lacked entry documents or humanitarian permits. According to a Ministry of the Interior report, most of those minors (60,020) were between the ages of 12 and 17.