The Texas Department of Safety reported a spike in human smuggling attempts by charter planes landing in small, private airports in the Rio Grande Valley over the last 30 days.
"They're not using the larger airports where there's TSA," said Texas Highway Patrol Staff Lieutenant Christopher Olivarez. "These are the smaller airports where you don't have the security measures in place for private planes. It's kind of hard to … do surveillance at every single airport."
On August 31, Texas DPS stopped a human smuggling attempt via private charter involving 12 illegal immigrants. Deputies stopped another similar attempt on September 23 involving 19 illegal immigrants.
In the early afternoon on October 2, DPS intercepted yet another human smuggling attempt by plane that involved six illegal immigrants and one female U.S. citizen. One of the detained illegal immigrants was a Mexican citizen who was a deported felon wanted for a child sexual assault case in Wisconsin.
Olivarez partially blamed the increase in smuggling attempts via plane on more migrants trying to enter the United States illegally. He said, "But what's unique is … you have to understand the difference between the people who are being smuggled on planes — those are people who have not been processed. Those are people who are trying to avoid detection."
Olivarez explained that charter pilots hired for these trips are not required to verify passengers' citizenship status. Instead, they are only required to match the names of passengers with the list of names on a manifest.
According to Olivarez, pilots do not often know what is going on. He said, "They're just told, 'Okay, I'm going to charter this plane. We're going to pick up this many passengers from this airport, and we're going to take them to this airport.' That's it."
Retired Customs and Border Protection agent and Texas congressional candidate Frank Lopez Jr. also questioned the use of private charters and airports.
"My question would be: Who can afford a private [plane]? Even just a propeller," Lopez said. "I've seen the pictures of the aircraft that are being used. So, who can afford that? … Who is involved with this? And the people that are being smuggled — are these your run-of-the-mill illegal aliens? Or is there something special about them? Is there something that that makes them a higher value package, per se?"Illegal immigrants who have not been processed by CBP are referred to as "gotaways." According to Fox News, more than 500,000 known gotaways in the 2022 fiscal year were spotted on cameras but managed to circumvent agents.