Freight trains remain mode of transport for illegal entry to US

By Joanna Marsh for

In this year’s best-selling novel “American Dirt,” men, women and children risk injury or death to climb aboard moving freight trains in an attempt to illegally cross into the United States.

U.S. railroads say real-life cases of smuggling or trespassing on freight rail networks near the U.S.-Mexico border continue.

Last Wednesday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) notified Union Pacific (NYSE: UNP) that a group of individuals was attempting to climb a moving train, with some individuals located on top of a railcar, near Laredo, Texas. 

The train engineer stopped the train, Union Pacific (UP) said, and border patrol agents found an injured adult male and took him to a nearby hospital. 

“This is an unfortunate situation that underscores the dangers of climbing on rail equipment and we hope he recovers soon. Union Pacific urges people to avoid these serious risks by staying off trains for their own safety,” UP said.

In another recent incident, CBP agents reportedly found 13 individuals locked inside a grain hopper train car on Sept. 20. Six others were hiding in different parts of the train, CBP said. 

Agents from the Hebbronville Station reportedly found the individuals while conducting a routine freight train check east of Bruni, Texas. Border Patrol said the individuals from Mexico and Guatemala were determined to be entering the U.S. illegally.

The individuals were medically evaluated and taken into U.S. Border Patrol custody.

“Hebbronville station agents encountered another train case in which smuggled aliens were trapped inside a small confined space, this time completely locked in with no means of escape,” said Laredo Sector Chief Patrol Agent Matthew J. Hudak. “These dangerous and potentially deadly tactics used by smugglers and illegal aliens continue to put the aliens and their rescuers at significant risk and significantly increase the potential spread of COVID-19.”

Incidents such as these aren’t new. In June, CBP reported that it discovered 48 alleged stowaways hiding in UP and BNSF (NYSE: BRK) trains. In July, an individual severed his foot while trying to jump onto a moving Kansas City Southern (NYSE: KSU) train.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Joanna Marsh.

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November 2023