Forty-six people were found dead in a trailer that was abandoned on a remote back road in San Antonio. The unfortunate incident marked the latest tragedy to claim the lives of migrants smuggled across the border from Mexico to the U.S.
Reports are coming that Sixteen people were hospitalised, including four children.
Police Chief William McManus said a city worker heard a cry for help from the truck shortly before 6 p.m. Monday and discovered the gruesome scene. Upon receiving the report the officers arrived to find a body on the ground outside the trailer and a partially opened gate to the trailer, he said.
Hours later, body bags lay spread on the ground near the trailer as a grim symbol of the calamity. Bodies still remained inside.
Fire Chief Charles Hood said 16 were taken to hospitals with heat-related illnesses, 12 were adults and four were children. The patients were hot to the touch and dehydrated, and no water was found in the trailer, he said.
“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.”
The home countries of the immigrants and how long they were abandoned on the side of the road were not immediately known.
South Texas has long been the busiest area for illegal border crossings. Migrants ride in vehicles through Border Patrol checkpoints to San Antonio, the closest major city, from which point they disperse across the United States.
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. Ten migrants died in 2017 after being trapped inside a truck that was parked at a Walmart in San Antonio. In 2003, 19 migrants were found in a sweltering truck southeast of San Antonio.
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.
Those in the trailer were part of a presumed migrant smuggling attempt into the United States, and the investigation was being led by U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, McManus said.
Three people were taken into custody, but it was unclear if they were definitively connected with human trafficking, McManus said.
Some advocates drew a link to the Biden administration’s border policies. Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy director at the American Immigration Council, wrote that he had been dreading such a tragedy for 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 Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican running for re-election, was blunt in a tweet about the Democratic president: “These deaths are on Biden. They are a result of his deadly open border policies.”