On Monday, June 27, 50 migrants were reported dead and several others injured after enduring stifling conditions inside a trailer of an abandoned truck in San Antonio, Texas.
The deaths of the migrants are among thousands of those attempting to flee to the United States. Investigation officials believe the current situation was part of a smuggling run.
Abandoned people in an abandoned truck
On Monday, San Antonio’s fire chief Charles Hood reported that 46 migrants have been found dead inside the trailer of a truck. However, Mexico’s foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, stated that 50 had died. The migrants were reported to be from Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras.
According to police chief William McManus, someone who works at a nearby building heard a cry for help on Monday, after which officers came to the scene to find a dead body on the ground outside the trailer.
Of the migrants found dead, 19 of them have not been identified, Erbard said.
Currently, San Antonio is experiencing the hottest temperatures ever recorded in June. Sixteen of the surviving migrants — 12 adults and four children — were taken to hospital after suffering from “heat-related illnesses”, as they were “hot to the touch” and dehydrated. The trailer appeared to lack both water and air conditioning. A law enforcement official told the Texas Tribune that most of the deceased were sprinkled with steak seasoning to mask their presence.
Ebrard was told that the surviving migrants were taken to four different hospitals in San Antonio.
“We’re in mourning. A huge tragedy. Mexico will join investigations in the U.S.,” he added.
Investigations into the matter will be conducted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security alongside Mexican authorities.
Guatemalan president, Alejandro Giammatteri, sent his condolences to the families of the migrants, though he did not reveal that Guatemalans were among those who were in the truck.
“It is unforgivable that innocent lives continue to be lost to migrant smuggling!” he said on Twitter.
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Mexico’s president, told reporters that “poverty and depression” caused the tragedy of the dead, vowing to their families that they would help “repatriate the bodies.”
San Antonio’s mayor Ron Nirenberg, called the situation “a horrific human tragedy,” stating that the departed had “families who were likely trying to find a better life.”
The deaths come after the last victim of the Uvalde school shooting — which took place close to the trailer — was laid to rest, with the people still mourning the loss of life.
“We are still holding in prayers our people in Uvalde; now, we are told that over 40 migrant people, our people, have died here in San Antonio,” Gustavo Gardica-Siller, a local archbishop, wrote on Twitter.
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Fleeing at a high price
The people inside the trailer are believed to be part of a human smuggling attempt across the border between the U.S. and Mexico, prompting homeland security to spearhead an investigation into the deaths, McManus said.
According to a couple who lives near the site, the area was a known “drop-off spot” for migrants.
“You can tell they just get here,” Ruby Chavez told the New York Times. “We see them with backpacks or asking for food or money.”
At the moment, three people near the trailer were taken in for questioning, but it is uncertain if they were associated with the tragedy, McManus said.
The deaths of these people are not the first migrant-related deaths in San Antonio. Ten people also died in a trailer in 2017, outside a Walmart. In 2003, 19 more people were found dead in a truck south-east of the city.
Since the early 1990s, these large trucks are often used for smuggling people at the border. However, since the 2001 terror attacks in the U.S., smuggling became more dangerous and expensive.
Governor Greg Abbott blamed the deaths of the people in the truck on “political division and how borders are secured.” Immigration campaigners also connected the deaths to the Biden administration’s border policies.
“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,” Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy director at the American Immigration Council said.