The 34 people abandoned over the weekend near a Weatherford truck stop were undocumented immigrants who paid to be smuggled into Texas in a tractor-trailer, authorities said Monday.
Thirty-four men, women and children were detained Sunday evening after the driver ordered them out of the truck, Weatherford police said.
The immigrants from Mexico and Honduras — 24 men, five women and five children — were scheduled to be dropped off in Dallas, but for unknown reasons the driver left them in Parker County, Weatherford police spokesman Commander Chris Crawford said in a Monday news release.
The undocumented immigrants, who were tired, hot and hungry, were offered medical treatment at the scene, police said.
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All were detained on a U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service hold, but they hadn’t broken any Texas state laws, so they were not arrested, Crawford said.
U.S. Border Patrol agents picked up the immigrants Monday and took them to Abilene, where the group will be processed.
“There is no evidence at this point that any of the individuals were being held against their will or being held for forced labor,” Crawford said in the news release. He said that by all indications, they “appear to be non-U.S. citizens attempting to enter the country illegally to find work by utilizing an organized human smuggling group.”
Based on interviews with immigrants, authorities learned that they paid someone to smuggle them into the United States at the El Paso/Juarez border. That person kept them in a house in El Paso, and then contacted the driver.
The driver was to take them from El Paso to Dallas, police said.
Near the Truck and Travel Truckstop at South Bowie and Interstate 20, the truck driver abandoned the immigrants.
Police got a call at 6:36 p.m. Sunday
from someone who reported seeing several people unloaded from the back of a truck.
“Officers were able to locate most if not all of the people that came out of the truck,” he said. “The driver and truck were gone by the time officers arrived.”
Volunteers from the Weatherford Citizen Police Academy Alumni Association provided them with food and water.
“You hear stories about this in various parts of the country, but having this many people and it occurring in Weatherford is very unusual,” he said.