04/24/2012 07:49 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

12 Undocumented Immigrants Hospitalized After Hit-And-Run Crash In Texas

Local authorities are still searching for the driver that sent twelve undocumented immigrants to the hospital in the border town of Progreso, Texas over the weekend. Saturday's crash comes just two weeks after two similar tragedies in the region.

In early April, nine undocumented immigrants were killed when a Chevy Astro Van-- holding 17 undocumented immigrants in total -- rolled over three times on a highway in Palmview, Texas. Seven other passengers were hospitalized, and driver of the van fled the scene. The accident occurred when the 15-year-old driver of the van, who is a U.S. citizen, attempted to escaped local authorities who tried to pull the van over. The driver is now facing 9 counts of murder, 17 counts of human smuggling, and one count of avoiding arrest.

WATCH: Local Residents Build Memorial For 9 Undocumented Immigrants Who Died In Crash

And the day before the deadly Palmview crash, one man died in yet another incident -- this one involving eighteen undocumented immigrants in a Ford Aerostar minivan that rolled over in La Joya, Texas. The driver of the van also fled the scene, but was arrested a day later.

Saturday's crash, like the two accidents that occurred earlier in the month, may be related to human smuggling. Traffickers, who are sometimes paid by immigrants themselves to be transported, often find it most lucrative to load vans and trucks over capacity with human cargo.

In April of 2010, five Arizona shuttle bus companies were raided allegedly smuggling thousands of undocumented immigrants into the state in part of an effort called Operation Plain Sight. According to local reports, 47 individuals were taken into Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody in what the agency categorized as the "most comprehensive human smuggling investigation in ICE history."

But hit-and-run accidents involving undocumented immigrants are not just isolated to smuggling cases.

In most states, one must be able to demonstrate legal status in order to obtain a driver's license, meaning that undocumented immigrants sometimes flee after accidents occur for fear of incarceration and deportation.

"When you make things illegal you cause a lot of other things by chain reaction," the Los Angeles police chief, Charlie Beck said in a February press conference.

Beck has suggested that California provide provisional licenses to undocumented immigrants in order to ensure driver proficiency and decrease the number of hit-and-run accidents that occur in his state.

"The reality is that all the things that we’ve done – ‘we’ being the state of California – over the last 14, 16 years have not reduced the problem one iota, haven’t reduced undocumented aliens driving without licenses. So we have to look at what we’re doing. When something doesn’t work over and over and over again, my view is that you should reexamine it to see if there is another way that makes more sense," Beck said in an interview with LA Times' reporters.

Critics to the police chief's proposal say that giving undocumented immigrants provisional licenses would be tantamount to rewarding people for breaking the law.

WATCH: Similar Accident in Phoenix, Arizona: 28 Immigrants Run From Van After Hit And Run



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