By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Two brothers from Mexico are facing federal charges after fleeing from U.S. authorities in late July and crashing their vehicle, killing two and injuring 10 others just miles from the international border.
Federal prosecutors announced Tuesday that Jorge Garcia-Rascon, 21 and Julio Garcia-Rascon, 19, have been charged with conspiracy to smuggle immigrants resulting in death. They will remain in custody pending trial.
The crash happened after Border Patrol agents attempted a traffic stop. The brothers sped away despite the agents ceasing their pursuit in hopes of avoiding any kind of chase that might endanger the occupants or other vehicles.
According to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court, the brothers had been smuggled themselves. The elder brother, speaking in Spanish, told authorities that he was transporting other migrants to pay off his debt for being brought to the United States.
Jorge Garcia-Rason stated that he and his brother were staying at a motel in El Paso, Texas, and were transporting migrants for an unnamed smuggling organization. He said he had transported six migrants to Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the week before the crash.
Julio Garcia-Rascon told authorities that he had once transported migrants to from El Paso to Albuquerque and that he was paid $500 per person. According to court documents, he stated that his employer told him not to stop if law enforcement attempted to pull him over.
A public defender appointed to represent the brothers did not immediately return a message seeking comment on the case.
The brothers’ SUV caught the attention of authorities who were patrolling near Santa Teresa, New Mexico. The SUV appeared to be weighed down after it passed by. The Border Patrol agents turned off their emergency lights and sirens after their attempt to stop the vehicle failed.
The driver continued speeding away and eventually lost control, flipping and rolling the vehicle.
Authorities said the brothers tried to run from the crash but were taken into custody.
In the weeks before the crash. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol reported that authorities working in the El Paso sector, which includes New Mexico’s stretch of the international border, had disrupted 20 vehicular human smuggling schemes that involved nearly 130 smuggled migrants.
The agency also reported busting three stash houses in late July and finding more than 100 migrants who were in the country illegally. Those migrants were from Guatemala, El Salvador, Ecuador, Mexico and Honduras.
The Border Patrol has reported that during the past fiscal year, agents working in New Mexico and West Texas located more than 175 stash houses at which 1,975 migrants were found.
Statistics released by the federal government Monday show migrants were stopped fewer times at the U.S. border with Mexico in July than in June but that flows were still unusually high.
Del Rio, Texas, was the busiest corridor for illegal crossings among the Border Patrol’s nine sectors on the Mexico border, with agents there stopping migrants 49,563 times in July. Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, which had long been the busiest, was second with 35,180 stops.