CBP: Smugglers use Santa Ana as ‘staging zone’

ALAMO – Two people have been charged with human smuggling in what U.S. Customs and Border Protection called an effort to use Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge as “a staging zone for alien smuggling.”

Two people parked in the refuge’s parking lot Saturday and returned with three others from a “brush area,” according to a CBP news release. The group “quickly entered the parked vehicle and departed from the refuge.”

The release comes in the wake of increased focus on Santa Ana amidst reports of plans to build a border wall through the refuge.

“Due to the large expanse of wooded area, proximity to the Rio Grande and limited access by Border Patrol, transnational criminal organizations exploit this area to engage in criminal activity,” the release stated.

CBP agents alerted local law enforcement who then conducted a traffic stop on the suspected vehicle. During the stop, law enforcement learned that the three people were in the country without authorization. Both the driver and passenger are U.S. citizens.