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33 people found in unrefrigerated trailer at I-19 checkpoint

Border Patrol agents arrested the driver of a semi-tractor trailer after they found 33 people hidden in his trailer Thursday night at the checkpoint on Interstate 19, authorities said. 

Nogales-area agents arrested the 37-year-old driver, identified only as a Mexican national, after they found the people in the trailer during as an inspection at the checkpoint, said a spokesman for the Border Patrol's Tucson Sector.

Along with produce from Mexico, agents found 33 people from Mexico and El Salvador hiding inside, including 12 children ranging from three to 17, as well as a pregnant woman, the spokesman said. They also found a man identified by the agency as a convicted felon.

A photo released by the agency shows an agent handed out crackers and juice boxes to people sitting on the asphalt at the I-19 checkpoint, about 23 miles north of the border on the highway between Nogales and Tucson.

Although the trailer was equipped with a refrigeration unit, the driver did not have it turned on, the spokesman said, and the interior of the trailer was nearly 100 degrees," causing imminent danger to the people locked inside with no means of egress," the spokesman said. 

The driver will face human smuggling charges, while the 33 people inside the trailer were taken into Border Patrol custody, where some will face charges for immigration violations, he said. 

In an effort to prevent fatalities at the hands of smugglers, the spokesman said that Department of Homeland Security, Border Patrol's parent agency, has recently launched "Operation Safeguard" to educate the public and the trucking industry on the "life-threatening dangers involved in using commercial conveyances to smuggle humans," the spokesman said. 

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An agent hands out crackers and juice boxes as a group of 33 people wait after they were pulled from a semi-tractor trailer at the I-19 checkpoint Thursday night. The driver was arrested and faces human smuggling charges.