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Immigrants were let loose in Pearsall…
A Texas border region native has pleaded guilty to charges related to smuggling a truckload of undocumented immigrants through South Texas nearly nine months after he released his human cargo onto the streets of Pearsall.
Indicted by the Texas Western District Court on May 5, 2021, 55-year-old Luis Enrique De La Cerda of El Indio appeared before a judge Wednesday, December 1, and admitted to smuggling 69 undocumented immigrants.
Pearsall police reported Monday, March 22, that dispatchers received a call shortly before noon regarding a tractor-trailer rig that had stopped in a parking lot at the southern end of town and approximately a hundred undocumented immigrants had been seen climbing out of the freight trailer.
Photos taken that day and residents’ home surveillance footage captured several undocumented immigrants in the community throughout the day, leading investigators to believe that scores of people may have been smuggled into the country in one freighter. Many of the immigrants evaded capture by fleeing into the brush near the Union Pacific Railroad line.
A witness was able to take video footage of the event as it unfolded, showing that nearly 100 men, women and children fled from the back of the truck once De La Cerda had opened the cargo doors.
Frio County sheriff’s deputies, Pearsall police officers, Texas Department of Public Safety troopers and Pearsall ISD police officers were on the scene within minutes.
“The driver attempted to blend in with the immigrants and they were scattering from the parking lot,” Frio Lt. Joshua Longoria said. “We were able to identify and arrest him.”
According to law enforcement on scene, De La Cerda was found in the brush behind a local electrical company storage facility a quarter mile from his abandoned freight truck.
Records showed a total of 69 undocumented immigrants, including five unaccompanied minors, were detained.
Many of those taken into custody complained of having had difficulty breathing due to poor ventilation and high temperatures in the trailer. Immigrants also told police that they had been traveling to Dallas to find work.
De La Cerda is scheduled to face US District Judge Jason K. Pulliam on March 9, 2022, for sentencing. He faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison for transporting undocumented immigrants.
De La Cerda had been released after his indictment in May, but bail was revoked in August on unrelated gun charges following a confrontation with a woman, according to law enforcement officers.