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Texas Teacher Tried To Smuggle Migrants To Houston In His Back Seat, Sheriff Says

HOUSTON, Texas — A Houston, Texas, teacher was charged with four counts of human smuggling after he was caught near the U.S.-Mexico border, according to Fox 26 Houston.

Authorities stopped Patrick Henry Middle School teacher Brandan Gracia for a traffic violation in the border town of Eagle Pass, Texas, where he was caught with four illegal migrants in the car, according to Fox 26 in Houston. The Houston Federation of Teachers union confirmed to Fox 26 that Gracia is a current teacher.

“What we’re gathering is he was contacted on social media, wanted to make some quick money, came to the border and picked up at a pre-determined location and was headed back to Houston,” Kinney County Sheriff Brad Coe said, according to Fox 26.

“The individuals were in the backseat laying down trying to conceal themselves,” Coe added.

Smugglers are often promised $1,000 to $5,000 per person they transport, but often never receive the payments, Coe said, according to Fox 26.

“He’s looking at state jail time. He could get up to six to eight years for all this. Best I can tell this is his first time. We are catching some that have no criminal history, never been in trouble before in their life, and they’ve hit a point in life where they think they need money bad enough that they’re going to try this. So we need to turn the economy around. We need to educate people, and we need to find the source,” Coe said.

Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott launched a state initiative dubbed “Operation Lone Star” in March 2021 to tackle border issues, such as smuggling.

Since its launch, Operation Lone Star has resulted in more than 336,000 migrant apprehensions, more than 23,000 criminal arrests, with more than 20,000 felony charges, according to the Texas government.

At the federal level, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has recorded a surge in illegal immigration with more than 2.3 migrant encounters in fiscal year 2022 and more than 1 million already in the first five months of fiscal year 2023.

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