Lance Corporals David Javier Salazar-Quintero and Byron Darnell Law II of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, at Camp Pendleton, California, became the latest active-duty US troops accused of aiding in the illegal transportation of immigrants across the US-Mexico border “for financial gain,” according to US District Court documents obtained by the Marine Corps Times (MCT) from the Southern District of California.
According to a federal complaint, a Border Patrol agent was put on alert after the Marines’ black BMW, operated by Law, parked on the median along Interstate 8, just outside of Jacumba Hot Springs, California.
Minutes later, the two Marines and their three undocumented pasengers were arrested. Court documents say the undocumented immigrants immediately confessed their illegal status to the agent.
It’s unknown who was the actual mastermind behind the plan, as Law claimed to border agents that Salazar-Quintero contacted him on July 2, asking if he wanted to make $1,000 for transporting an “illegal alien.” Furthermore, the two were supposedly taking orders via phone from an “unknown Mexican number,” whose operator never paid them for the job.
However, Salazar-Quintero told the agents that Law was the one who first introduced him to the human smuggling world and the “recruiter” that he met several times for previous jobs. Salazar-Quintero argues that he was simply the point of contact because he is fluent in Spanish.
“We are aware of the charges facing Lance Cpl. Law and Lance Cpl. Salazar-Quintero, and we continue to cooperate fully with the investigative efforts into this matter,” Marine spokesman 1st Lt. Cameron Edinburgh claimed to MCT in a Monday email.
Back in 2017, 25-year-old Joseph Edmond Cleveland, a US Army soldier, was sentenced to 15 months in a federal prison for smuggling two undocumented immigrants across a US Border Patrol checkpoint, according to a statement from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Cleveland, along with 20-year-old Marco Antonio Nava Jr., confessed to being offered $1,500 to drive the two immigrants through the border checkpoints.
More recently, the Washington Post reported in November 2018 that a member of the US National Guard had gone AWOL and was allegedly attempting to smuggle three undocumented Mexican immigrants into the US by hiding them under a blanket. The potential payout for the illegal transportation was apparently only $400.
Despite these and more instances of US military troops acting against ICE and Border Patrol interests, it was revealed Tuesday that the US Department of Homeland Security is requesting at least 1,000 additional Texas National Guard troops along the US-Mexico border. The Department of Defense has yet to issue a response to the measure.