SAN ANTONIO — Forty-six people were found dead in and near a tractor-trailer and 16 others were taken to hospitals in a presumed migrant smuggling attempt into the United States, officials in San Antonio said.
It’s among the deadliest tragedies to have claimed thousands of lives of people attempting to cross the U.S. border from Mexico in recent decades. In San Antonio, ten migrants perished in 2017, after they were trapped in a truck. The truck was parked at a Walmart in San Antonio and 19 migrants were trapped there.
The scene was located on a backroad in Southwest San Antonio. A call for assistance came from a city worker, said Police Chief William McManus. According to McManus, officers found a corpse outside of the trailer as well as a partially unlocked gate to it.
Charles Hood, Fire Chief, stated that 12 of 16 patients admitted to the hospital were adult and four children with heat-related diseases. According to Hood, the heat-related illnesses were severe and the patients were extremely hot.
“They were suffering from heat stroke and exhaustion,” Hood said. “It was a refrigerated tractor-trailer, but there was no visible working AC unit on that rig.”
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said the 46 who died had “families who were likely trying to find a better life.”
“This is nothing short of a horrific human tragedy,” Nirenberg said.
The trailer contained a suspected migrant attempt to enter the United States. U.S. investigators were leading the investigation. McManus stated that Homeland Security Investigations are being conducted.
McManus reported that 3 people were taken into custody. It was not clear whether they were connected to any human trafficking.
In the 1990s, big rigs became a common smuggling technique due to a rise in U.S. border security in San Diego, El Paso (Texas), which then were the most important corridors for illegal crossings.
Prior to that, migrants had to pay small fees for entry to a mostly unguarded border crossing. After the terrorist attacks on the U.S. in 2001, crossing the border became more challenging and migrants had to be led across more treacherous terrain for thousands more dollars.
The danger of heat is especially high when the temperature inside cars can soar. The weather in San Antonio was cloudy on Monday but the temperatures reached 100 degrees.
Some advocates drew a link to the Biden administration’s border policies. Aaron Reichlin Melnick was the American Immigration Council’s policy director. He wrote that he had been anticipating such a disaster for several months.
“With the border shut as tightly as it is today for migrants from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, people have been pushed into more and more dangerous routes. Truck smuggling is a way up,” he wrote on Twitter.
Stephen Miller, a chief architect of former President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, said, “Human smugglers and traffickers are wicked and evil” and that the administration’s approach to border security rewards their actions.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican running for reelection, was blunt in a tweet about the Democratic president: “These deaths are on Biden. They are a result of his deadly open border policies.”
Migrants — largely from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — have been expelled more than 2 million times under a pandemic-era rule in effect since March 2020 that denies them a chance to seek asylum but encourages repeat attempts because there are no legal consequences for getting caught. Title 42 is not as applicable for people who are from non-European countries like Colombia, Nicaragua, Cuba and Nicaragua. This is due to their higher return costs, tensions in diplomatic relations, and other reasons.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (USCP) reported that 557 people died at the southwest border during the 12 month period ended Sept. 30, more deaths than in the preceding year (247), and it was the most since the beginning of its tracking in 1998. Many of these deaths can be attributed to heat exposure.
CBP has not published a death tally for this year but said that the Border Patrol performed 14,278 “search-and-rescue missions” in a seven-month period through May, exceeding the 12,833 missions performed during the previous 12-month period and up from 5,071 the year before.
Continue reading: Extreme Heat Can Do to Your Body
— Spagat reported from San Diego. Terry Wallace was the reporter from Dallas.
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