Transmigrantes driving semis stranded outside of courthouse 

Staff photo by Maisie Crow / A car carrier loaded with vehicles for transport to Guatemala sits parked in front of the First Christian Church just across the street from the Presidio County Courthouse on Friday. Three transmigrantes –– two driving car carriers and one pulling an ambulance –– were pulled over by a Presidio County Sheriff’s Office deputy en route to Presidio and were stranded for over 24 hours in Marfa as several driving infractions were processed.

MARFA –– Two semi-trailer trucks full of used cars stacked on top of each other were pulled over by a Presidio County Sheriff’s deputy late last week. The freight trucks, driven by transmigrantes, were stranded outside of the Presidio County Courthouse for over 24 hours until the drivers were able to pay off several driving infractions.

While the Presidio County Sheriff’s Office did not return a request for comment, Justice of the Peace David Beebe said that the transmigrantes were originally pulled over for having faulty license plates. “I believe that the license tags on the trucks were paper plates over Guatemalan plates,” Beebe said. “The paper plates didn’t look right, and they were counterfeit.”

Yet the problems for the transmigrantes –– traveling merchants that buy cars and appliances in the United States and bring them down to central america to sell –– didn’t stop with the license plates. According to Beebe, the drivers also had fake insurance cards and fake United States Department of Transportation registrations.

There was a third transmigrante –– transporting an old ambulance alongside the other two semis –– who was facing similar violations. In addition to not having proper insurance and license plates, the driver of that vehicle also didn’t own a commercial driver’s license.

“They pleaded no contest and were fined for nine infractions,” Beebe said, adding that this was the first time he had to deal with transmigrantes driving semi trucks.

As the transmigrantes were stranded at the county courthouse on Thursday afternoon, a customs broker from Servicios Aduanales del Desierto –– an Ojinaga/Presidio-based brokerage agency –– showed up to try and resolve the issue.

The broker from SAD said that the transmigrantes were stopped after there was an issue with their insurance. He said he was now working on getting temporary license plates and insurance for the trucks.

Back in March, the Mexican government opened the Presidio port to transmigrante traffic and soon after two brokerage agencies, including SAD, opened up lodgings outside of town to cater to the traveling merchants as they wait the three days for their paperwork to be approved by Mexican authorities. At the time, the majority of the transmigrantes who were staying at SAD’s lodgings were transporting a couple of old pickups along with a few home appliances.

Now, the parking lot in front of SAD is host to numerous semi trucks and 18-wheelers packed full with 10 to 12 old pickups –– a sign that operations are scaling up.

Monica Dominguez works for GRADO, the other brokerage agency that works with transmigrantes in Presidio, and she said that she’s seen more semi trucks coming through town.

“They buy big trucks and fill them with cars. Some bring car haulers as well. This will be more common in the upcoming months,” Dominguez said. She also added that the busiest season for transmigrantes is between late September and early December where “we should see a huge increase in the flow of vehicles.”