Two men have been charged in separate incidents for allegedly attempting to smuggle more than 70 migrants each through a border patrol checkpoint in Texas, weeks after the deadliest human trafficking incident in U.S. history.
The departments of Justice and Homeland Security claim that Menietto Lateet Crawford, 41, and Denny Fuentes, 41, attempted to smuggle migrants across the border on June 14 and 15, respectively. The men were also each charged with conspiracy.
The cases are nearly identical to the incident that killed more than 50 migrants near San Antonio on June 27, when dozens were found dead in a tractor-trailer.
Though the charges against Crawford and Fuentes are similar, the cases are not related.
Crawford allegedly had 80 people in a refrigerated truck, according to the Department of Justice. A K-9 found migrants inside of the vehicle when Crawford arrived at the Border Patrol checkpoint in Laredo, Texas, on June 14.
Fuentes arrived at the same checkpoint the day after with more than 70 migrants from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras in a refrigerated truck. He claimed that he was transporting "pig meat," according to the charges.
Each man faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 fine if convicted, according to Homeland Security Investigations, the department's investigative unit.
On June 27, 53 people died while trapped in a tractor-trailer in San Antonio. Temperatures reached a high of 103 degrees that day.
While the trailer was refrigerated, it did not have a working air-conditioning unit, nor were there signs of any water.
Authorities arrested and charged four men in connection with the suspected smuggling operation.
Two of the men, if convicted, face up to life in prison and possibly the death penalty. Two other men were arrested on gun charges, federal authorities said.
Texas has taken a tough approach in addressing border crossings by targeting migrants. The state's Department of Public Safety program launched the border security initiative "Operation Lone Star" in 2021 meant to restrict migrant crossings into Texas.
The DOJ is investigating the program for possible civil rights violations.