Human TraffickingNews

US Air and Marine Operations (AMO) Laredo Air Branch Sees 143% Increase in Migrant Apprehensions

Air and Marine Operations (AMO) Laredo Air Branch crew detection, surveillance, and tracking operations contributed to the apprehension of 12,400 people between October 1, 2020 and June 17, 2021, disrupting multiple dangerous human smuggling attempts in partnership with federal, state, and local partners in south Texas.  

AMO aircrews use the ASTAR, a short-range, turbine-powered light enforcement helicopter to conduct missions such as aerial patrol and surveillance of stationary or moving targets. Several apprehensions occurred in June 2021 under Laredo Air Branch ASTAR crew overwatch that demonstrate the often-life-threatening methods smugglers employ to conceal human passengers from detection by law enforcement.

  • On June 4, two Laredo Air Branch aircrews responded to a report of a suspect tractor-trailer possibly smuggling migrants in Texas. The aircrews detected a false wall within the vehicle and guided Border Patrol agents to the location where they apprehended 72 people. A Laredo-based aircrew also led Border Patrol agents to the location of a vehicle bail-out resulting in apprehension of 11 migrants.
  • On June 7, a Laredo Air Branch crew responded to an emergency call and found 35 migrants in need of water and medical assistance. Two Border Patrol Search, Trauma, and Rescue Team members arrived, provided water to migrants and assessed them for injuries.
  • On June 10, a Laredo-based aircrew partnered with Homeland Security Investigations, Laredo Sector Border Patrol, and the Laredo Police Department, conducting aerial overwatch of a suspected stash house in south Texas. Ground authorities apprehended 102 people, including five unaccompanied juveniles within the stash house.
  • On June 17, a Laredo Air Branch crew responded to a request from Homeland Security Investigations and Border Patrol agents to locate a suspect tractor-trailer. The aircrew identified the vehicle and guided Border Patrol agents to its location. Ground agents safely unloaded 30 migrants from within the trailer where they had no means of escape and little to no ventilation.

“Our apprehension numbers as of June 2021 are 143 percent higher than our total apprehensions in FY2020. We are responding to numerous distress calls for migrants in need of desperate medical help,” said DuWayne Nelson, Deputy Director of Air Operations, Laredo Air Branch.

Laredo Air Branch is part of

AMO’s Southwest Region, a region that spans more than 2,000 miles of linear border and is responsible for conducting federal aviation, maritime, and land law enforcement operations within Nevada, Oklahoma, and the four southwest border states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. AMO’s Southwest Region includes the coastal waters off southern California and Texas and some of the most inhospitable desert and mountain terrain in the United States. In FY 21, Southwest Region crews arrested 407 individuals, apprehended 38,892 individuals, and seized 240,966 pounds of narcotics, 294 weapons, and $15,637,866 USD.