The Texas sheriff says seven suspects have been arrested and 11 migrants have been hospitalized after a sting near San Antonio

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Eleven people were hospitalized and seven smuggling suspects were arrested Thursday after authorities found more than two dozen migrants driven from the border packed into a secret compartment of a trailer with little cash.

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Eleven people were hospitalized and seven smuggling suspects arrested Thursday after authorities found more than two dozen migrants driven from the border packed into a secret compartment of a trailer with little water and in sweltering heat.

Acting on a tip about a smuggling operation, authorities tracked the trailer as it was towed to a rural residence outside San Antonio, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said.

A total of 26 migrants were found in the home, which Salazar described as a “hut” with holes in the floor and no water. Of those, 11 were taken to a hospital with heat-related and minor injuries, Salazar said.

The migrants had been in the caravan’s secret compartment for three hours, Salazar said. Temperatures in San Antonio were in the low 90s Thursday afternoon and were expected to top 100, according to the National Weather Service.

No specific information has been released about the conditions of the hospitalized migrants, but Salazar said, “We think everyone is out of the woods as far as losing their lives.”

The smuggling sting came two days after President Joe Biden unveiled plans to immediately impose significant restrictions on migrants seeking asylum at the US-Mexico border, as the White House seeks to neutralize immigration as a political imperative ahead of the election in November.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, has been battling the Biden administration over immigration policy for years. Abbott launched Operation Lone Star, a multibillion-dollar state border security effort that has led to lawsuits with the federal government over river buoys and razor wire to prevent migrants from crossing the Rio Grande, and other border-related measures. Texas has also bused tens of thousands of migrants to Democratic-run cities across the US

San Antonio was the site of the nation’s deadliest human trafficking incident in June 2022. Fifty-three migrants, including eight children, died after being trapped in a sweltering tractor-trailer driven from the border city of Laredo. The trailer had a defective air conditioning system. When authorities found it on a remote road in San Antonio, 48 migrants were already dead and five more died later in hospitals. The dead migrants came from Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

All of the migrants found Thursday appeared to be adults, Salazar said. The nationalities of most of them were not immediately known, but one woman told authorities she was from Guatemala and had paid $16,000 to be brought to the US.

Salazar said he did not know when the migrants crossed the border but believed they drove into the area from Laredo, about 160 miles away.

Salazar blamed the Mexican cartels for breaking up the operation Thursday, noting that body armor and guns were found on the premises. Some people found in the home ran away, but authorities believed they had caught everyone involved.

“Clearly cartel related,” Salazar said. “This is the fault of the bloodthirsty organizations that transfer and endanger them.”

Salazar noted how well hidden the migrants were as they were moved.

“You could be standing next to it and not know there are 26 people in there,” Salazar said. “They’re hiding in plain sight.”

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Associated Press reporter Valerie Gonzalez in McAllen, Texas, contributed.

Jim Vertuno, The Associated Press