The remains of 46 Dead migrants were discovered inside a tractor-trailer in San Antonio, Texas, on Monday, according to municipal officials, in one of the most lethal recent episodes of human smuggling along the US-Mexico border.
According to a San Antonio Fire Department officer, they discovered “stacks of bodies” and no traces of water in the vehicle, which was discovered adjacent to train lines in a secluded region on the city’s southern fringes.
Sixteen other persons found inside the trailer were sent to hospitals for heat exhaustion and heat stroke, including four kids, but no children was among the fatalities, according to the department.
“The victims that we encountered were hot to the touch, they were suffering from heat stroke, fatigue,” San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said during a press conference. “It was a refrigerated tractor-trailer, but there was no obvious operating A/C unit on that vehicle.”
Temperatures in San Antonio, which is around 160 miles (250 kilometers) from the Mexican border, reached a high of 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39.4 degrees Celsius) on Monday due to excessive humidity.
According to the city’s Police Chief, William McManus, a person working in a neighboring building heard a call for assistance and came out to investigate. The worker saw the trailer doors half open and looked inside, seeing a number of dead bodies.
McManus stated that this was the largest occurrence of its sort in the city and that three persons were arrested as a result of the event, however their role remains unclear.
A representative for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) stated the agency’s Homeland Security Investigations branch was investigating “an suspected human smuggling occurrence” in collaboration with local authorities.
The deaths illustrate the difficulty of preventing migrant crossings at the US-Mexico border, which have reached record highs.
The problem has proven tough for U.S. President Joe Biden, a Democrat who took office in January 2021 promising to overturn some of his Republican predecessor Donald Trump’s strict immigration policies. Republicans have questioned Biden’s border plan ahead of the November midterm legislative elections.
On Twitter, Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard termed the suffocation of the migrants in the truck a “tragedy in Texas,” and said consular officials would travel to the hospitals where victims had been transferred to help “any way possible.”
A spokeswoman for the Honduran foreign ministry told Reuters that the event will be investigated by the country’s consulates in Houston and Dallas. Ebrard claimed two Guatemalans were hospitalized, and Guatemala’s foreign ministry stated on Twitter that consular personnel were traveling to the hospital “to check if there are two Guatemalan youngsters there and what condition they are in.”
According to Jack Staton, a former senior official with ICE’s investigative branch who retired in December, the I-35 freeway near where the truck was located passes through San Antonio from the Mexican border and is a favored smuggling corridor due to the huge volume of truck traffic.
In July 2017, ten migrants died after being carried in a tractor-trailer discovered by San Antonio police in a Wal-Mart parking lot. The driver, James Matthew Bradley, Jr., was sentenced to life in prison for his involvement in the smuggling operation the following year.
Staton stated that following the 2017 event, migrants have been caught on a daily basis in the region. “It was only a matter of time until another catastrophe like this occurred,” he added.