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Police believe that 50 migrants died after they were loaded into a semi-truck and driven 150 miles from the southern border in sweltering Texas heat before the vehicle suffered mechanical problems.
Officials believe the migrants were loaded into the truck in Laredo on Monday and then abandoned on the outskirts of San Antonio, next to a railroad track in an area surrounded by auto scrapyards, around 6pm.
Police suspect several migrants may have jumped or started falling out of the back of truck before the traffickers discarded it along the roadway.
At least three bodies were found scattered down road, with the furthest one located about 75 yards from the truck, law enforcement sources confirmed to The New York Times.
Officials also said it was possible that those found along the road had died inside the truck, but fallen out when its doors opened. Police are now searching nearby fields for bodies and are trying to determine if anyone escaped the trailer alive.
Firefighters found ‘stacks of bodies’ in the truck after temperatures reached a high of 103 degrees Monday and officials claim there were no signs of water in the semi.
Some of the victims staggered out of the trailer before dying and were found several blocks away, police told The Texas Tribune. The migrants had been sprinkled with steak seasoning in apparent bid to cover up their smell as they were being transported.
Sixteen survivors, including four children were rushed to nearby hospitals for heat stroke and exhaustion. They were found by a local worker, who investigated the scene after hearing a faint cry for help emanating from the truck. Police say they are not confident they have accounted for everyone from the truck and do not know what the total number of victims is.
San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said the semi-truck driver, whose identity was not disclosed, is in federal custody. He was detained by officers in a nearby field after having fled the area on foot.
Initial reports indicate three individuals have been arrested in connection to the deaths. It is unclear what role the other two suspects played in the incident.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott blamed the deaths on President Joe Biden’s ‘deadly open border policies’ and ‘refusal to enforce the law.’
Biden, addressing the tragedy Tuesday, called the deaths ‘horrifying and heartbreaking’ and said it further underscores the ‘need to go after the multi-billion dollar criminal smuggling industry preying on migrants and leading to far too many innocent deaths.’
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre tried to deflect blame on Tuesday, but instead made a confusing statement that appeared to take ownership for the tragedy by saying the border is ‘closed.’
‘The fact of the matter is the border is closed, which is, in part, why you see people trying to make this dangerous journey using smuggling networks,’ Jean-Pierre told reporters during a flight from Munich, Germany to Madrid, Spain.
The incident marks the deadliest human smuggling on American soil since 2003 when 19 migrants died after riding inside the rear compartment of sweltering 18-wheeler while they traveled from South Texas to Houston. The death doll rose to 50 from 46 on Tuesday morning.
It also comes as the U.S. has reported a record number of migrant crossings, rescues and deaths under the leadership of the Biden Administration.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott blamed President Joe Biden for the deaths of the 50 migrants found dead inside an abandoned tractor-trailer. The truck was found abandoned by railroad tracks and salvage yards by an individual who worked nearby
Law enforcement officers carry a body at the scene where people were found dead inside a trailer truck in San Antonio
Local priests from the San Antonio Archdiocese stand near the scene where a tractor-trailer was discovered with migrants inside outside San Antonio
Officials believe the migrants were loaded into the truck in Laredo on Monday and then abandoned on the outskirts of San Antonio, next to a railroad track in an area surrounded by auto scrapyards, around 6pm
The deadliest migrant tragedies in the US
June 27, 2022: At least 50 migrants were found dead Monday in and around a large trailer truck that was abandoned on the roadside on the outskirts of of San Antonio, Texas.
The tractor-trailer was found on a road near I-35 amid 103-degree heat.
August 4, 2021: Ten people were killed and at 20 others injured after a van transporting migrants crashed near the border in Encino, Texas. The driver had attempted to make a right turn at an intersection before veering off the road and hitting both a utility pole and stop sign.
March 2, 2021: Thirteen migrants were killed and several including children injured after Ford SUV ‘with 25 immigrants crammed inside’ crashed into a gravel truck near the Mexican border in California. Witnesses recalled the sounds of crunching metal and glass, and how bodies flung dozens of feet across the pavement.
June 5, 2019: A SUV packed with more than a dozen undocumented migrants from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico, crashed after a chase with police in rural South Texas. The vehicle had veered into a ditch in rainy weather.
July 23, 2017: Eight immigrants were found dead in a sweltering trailer at a San Antonio Walmart parking lot. Two others died later in hospitals. The driver was sentenced to life in prison.
July 22, 2012: A Ford pick-up truck carrying 23 migrants from Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico crashed into two trees in a rural South Texas town. Fifteen people were killed in the incident.
May 14, 2003: 19 migrants died inside a sweltering tractor-trailer while they traveled from South Texas to Houston.
A city worker heard a cry for help from the truck parked on a lonely San Antonio back road late Monday afternoon and discovered the gruesome scene inside the trailer.
Forty-six people were found dead at the scene, authorities said. Four more later died after being taken to hospitals, said Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, the county’s top elected official.
Officials said the dead included 39 men and 11 women. No children were among the deceased.
Mexico’s foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard confirmed Tuesday morning that the deceased includes 22 migrants from Mexico, seven from Guatemala and two from Honduras. The other migrants have yet to be identified.
Officials disclosed later Tuesday that they believe the truck came from Laredo, a border city about 150 miles.
‘They had just parked it on the side of the road,’ Wolff told reporters. ‘Apparently had mechanical problems and left it there. The sheriff thinks it came across from Laredo.’
Officials were asking neighboring counties to help with the number of bodies.
President Biden blamed the tragedy on ‘human traffickers who have no regard for the lives they endanger and exploit to make a profit.’
‘Exploiting vulnerable individuals for profit is shameful, as is political grandstanding around tragedy,’ the president said, reiterating he was dedicated to combatting the skyrocketing migration at the southern border.
He added: ‘My Administration will continue to do everything possible to stop human smugglers and traffickers from taking advantage of people who are seeking to enter the United States between ports of entry.’
Biden’s remarks came after several GOP members took to social media blaming his immigration policies for the deaths.
‘These deaths are on Biden. They are a result of his deadly open border policies,’ Abbott tweeted Monday night, hours after the bodies were discovered. ‘They show the deadly consequences of his refusal to enforce the law.’
‘Horrific. This..is..WRONG’ Sen. Ted Cruz tweeted. ‘How many more people have to die before Dems give a damn?’
Secretary Mayorkas responded to the incident, alleging he was ‘heartbroken’ and issued his prayers for the injured.
‘I am heartbroken by the tragic loss of life today and am praying for those still fighting for their lives,’ he said. ‘Far too many lives have been lost as individuals – including families, women, and children – take this dangerous journey.’
The DHS secretary called the human smugglers ‘callous individuals who have no regard for the vulnerable people they exploit and endanger in order to make a profit’ and alleged the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was investigating the incident.
Democrats hit back, placing blame on the GOP for the tragic loss of life.
Congressman Joaquin Castro said: ‘We must end Title 42 which has put desperate, oppressed people in grave danger of death. Title 42 has created more business, repeat business, for human smugglers.’
Texas gubernatorial candidate for former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke said: ‘We need urgent action — dismantle human smuggling rings and replace them with expanded avenues for legal migration that reflect our values and meet our country’s needs.’
Democrats claim that Republicans ire toward Biden and his party over the migrants’ death is just ‘right wing talking points’ to further peg the southern border crisis on the left.
Sixteen survivors, including four children were rushed to nearby hospitals for heat stroke and exhaustion. They were found by a local worker, who investigated the scene after hearing a faint cry for help emanating from the truck. No children were among the dead
A K-9 search team arrives at the area near I-35 where dozens of migrants were found dead in a tractor-trailer on Monday. Police are searching for additional bodies. Authorities suspect several migrants may have jumped or started falling out of the back of truck before the traffickers discarded it along the roadway
A group of individuals, lead by local priests, are pictured in apparent prayer at the scene of the human smuggling incident
Police Chief William McManus said on Monday that three individuals were taken into custody, but that it had not been established whether they were ‘absolutely connected to this or not’
Lorena Gomez, an immigrant from Guatemala, visited the area of San Antonio on Tuesday where dozens of migrants were found dead in a tractor-trailer the night before
Texas Governor blames Biden’s border measures for tragedy
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has issued a fresh condemnation of President Biden’s border measures – and blamed them for Monday’s tragedy.
He tweeted: ‘At Least 42 People Found Dead Inside Truck Carrying Migrants In Texas. These deaths are on Biden. They are a result of his deadly open border policies. They show the deadly consequences of his refusal to enforce the law.’
Abbott has repeatedly crossed swords with Biden over immigration in recent months, as the number of illegal crossings over the southern border into states including his soared to record levels.
In April, Abbott sought to embarrass Biden over the crisis by busing migrants to Washington DC and leaving them on the steps of the US Capitol.
Abbott also announced a $500 million package of measures to try and slash immigration. That included deploying Texas National Guard members to try and stem the flow of migrants into the US.
The truck had U.S. and Texas registration numbers listed on the cab. State department on transportation records connected the tags to an Alamo resident.
However, the resident’s son-in-law, Issac Limon, claims those running the smuggling ring fraudulently printed the tags on the truck.
‘It was a perfect setup,’ Limon told The Washington Post. ‘The truck is here. I’m looking at it right now. Sad to say, but he’s a bit of a victim, too, because people believe it was him.’
Limon claims the truck that actually corresponds with the registration is a Volvo and was being used to haul grain over the past week in another part of Texas.
He noted that is father-in-law was ‘shaken up’ by the incident.
The truck was found abandoned by auto salvage yards and railroad tracks around 6pm Monday.
McManus said a nearby worker ‘heard a cry for help and came out to investigate’, before finding the trailer’s doors partially opened upon arrival and discovering dozens of bodies.
Texas has been experiencing a near-record heat wave, while temperatures in San Antonio, which is about 160 miles from the Mexican border, swelled to a high of 103F on Monday with high humidity.
‘The patients that we saw were hot to the touch. They were suffering from heat stroke and exhaustion,’ fire chief Charles Hood said in a Monday press briefing.
‘[There were] no signs of water in the vehicle. It was a refrigerated trailer, but there was no visible working AC unit on that rig.’
Local workers allege the area where the truck was discarded, along Quintana Road, has been a popular migrant drop-off spot since the early 1990s.
‘I know when I first started in the yards a lot of people came from Mexico,’ Rose Ann Iniguez, manager of Junk Yard Dogs auto salvage, told The New York Times. ‘They were hungry and thirsty. They’d come through the yard and wanted to work, but we didn’t have work. We’d let them pick up whatever parts were on the floor to get them going with a little money.’
Christine and Michael Ybarra embrace at the scene where people were found dead inside a trailer truck in San Antonio, Texas, U.S. June 27, 2022
Body bags lie at the scene where a tractor trailer with multiple dead bodies was discovered, Monday, June 27, 2022, in San Antonio
San Antonio Police chief McManus said he could not confirm whether all the victims had been found, and that canine units would be deployed in the morning to continue searching
Onlookers stand near the scene where the semitrailer was found on Monday in South Texas
Texas trucker’s license plate was stolen by smugglers who left 50 migrants to die
The family of a Texas man said he was wrongfully identified as the owner of the truck used by human smugglers who left 50 migrants to die inside the vehicle in 103 degree weather along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The truck’s license plate and registration linked the vehicle to an Alamo man, but his son-in-law, Isaac Limon, said the information was stolen and that the real truck belonging to his family was out hauling grain in another part of Texas.
‘It was a perfect setup,’ Limon told the Washington Post. ‘The truck is here. I’m looking at it right now. Sad to say, but he’s a bit of a victim, too, because people believe it was him.’
Limon told the Post that the plates and registration identified in the tragedy belong to his father-in-law’s Volvo, and was outraged over Telemundo’s reporting that suggested his truck was used in the crime.
‘[I] just want to help clear my Father-In-Law’s name,’ Limon wrote on Facebook after the news broke. ‘He is not the owner of the truck in San Antonio that is involved in this tragic event.
‘His DOT Number was illegally copied onto the truck… Telemundo did not verify the facts before airing the story.’
Limon said that his father-in-law has been left ‘shaken’ by the misreporting.
McManus said Monday searches to find any survivors that may have escaped were ongoing.
‘We had our canines out there going through the woods and we may have to do that again tomorrow in the light of day,’ he said.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said the 50 who died had ‘families who were likely trying to find a better life’.
‘The plight of migrants seeking refuge is always a humanitarian crisis,’ said Nirenberg.
‘But tonight we are dealing with a horrific human tragedy.’
Locals said that the location where the truck was found was a known drop-off point for migrants, according to The New York Times.
‘You can tell they just got here. We see them with backpacks or asking for food or money,’ Ruby Chavez, 53, told The New York Times.
‘They know this area. They jump off the train and get picked up,’ Chavez’s husband said.
The I-35 highway near where the truck was found runs through San Antonio from the Mexican border and is a popular smuggling corridor because of the large volume of truck traffic, according to Jack Staton, a former senior official with ICE’s investigative unit who retired in December.
Staton said migrants have regularly been intercepted in the area since the 2017 incident.
‘It was only a matter of time before a tragedy like this was going to happen again,’ he said.
Yesterday’s deaths highlight the challenge of controlling migrant crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border, which have reached record highs.
The issue has proven difficult for U.S. President Joe Biden, a Democrat who has pledged to reverse some of the hard-line immigration policies of his Republican predecessor Donald Trump.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott hit out at the President following the deaths, blaming the deadly incident on the Biden administration’s lax approach to border control – a key issue for the upcoming November elections.
The deaths ‘are the result of his deadly open border policies,’ Abbott wrote. ‘They show the deadly consequences of his refusal to enforce the law.’
Monday’s tragedy was one of the deadliest incidents of illegal smuggling of people across the southern U.S. border.
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.
Big rigs emerged as a popular smuggling method in the early 1990s amid a surge in U.S. border enforcement in San Diego and El Paso, Texas, which were then the busiest corridors for illegal crossings.
Prior to that, people paid small fees to mom-and-pop operators to get them across a largely unguarded border.
As crossings became exponentially more difficult after the 2001 terror attacks in the U.S., migrants were led through more dangerous terrain and paid thousands of dollars more to smugglers.
Heat poses a serious danger, and temperatures can rise severely inside vehicles.
An ambulance leaves the scene where police said dozens of people were found dead in a semitrailer in a remote area in southwestern San Antonio
Police block the scene. It may be the deadliest tragedy among thousands who have died attempting to cross the U.S. border from Mexico in recent decades
Police block the scene where a semitrailer with multiple dead bodies were discovered
Other incidents have occurred long before migrants reached the U.S. border.
Last December, more than 50 died when a semitrailer filled with migrants rolled over on a highway in southern Mexico.
In October, Mexican authorities reported finding 652 migrants packed into six trailers near the U.S. border. They were stopped at a military checkpoint.
Border Patrol reported 557 deaths on the southwest border in the 12-month period ending Sept. 30 2021, more than double the 247 deaths reported in the previous year and the highest since it began keeping track in 1998. Most are related to heat exposure.
The International Organization for Migration, which documents migrant deaths, alleges that the number of people who died attempting to cross the border in 2021 was actually more than 650.
CBP has not published a death tally for this year but recorded data shows at least 87 migrants have died while trying to come into the U.S.
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.
People from other countries, notably Cuba, Nicaragua and Colombia, are subject to Title 42 authority less frequently due to higher costs of sending them home, strained diplomatic relations and other considerations.
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.
How Joe Biden has presided over RECORD levels of migration, deaths and rescues at the southern border
Migrant crossings, rescues and deaths along the southern border have hit record levels under the leadership of President Joe Biden.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is on pace to record more than 2 million arrests this year as hundreds of thousands of migrants seeking to enter the U.S. travel from South and Central America up through Mexico.
Migrant crossing levels have been on the rise since Biden took office with Border Patrol having tallied a record 1.73 million arrests at the border in 2021.
Death incidents have also skyrocketed with the number of migrants fatalities reported in 2021 more than doubling those recorded in 2020.
Biden argued Tuesday that authorities need to take action against the ‘multi-billion dollar criminal smuggling industry’ that he claims preys on migrants and causes ‘far too many innocent deaths.’
The president’s push to tackle the border crisis came after authorities found at least 50 migrants dead in an abandoned tractor-trailer in San Antonio, Texas on Monday.
The incident marks the deadliest human smuggling on American soil since 2003 when 19 migrants died after riding inside the rear compartment of sweltering 18-wheeler while they traveled from South Texas to Houston.
The number of migrant arrivals along the U.S.-Mexico border have hit record levels under the leadership of President Joe Biden
CBP data published earlier this month revealed immigration arrests rose to the highest levels ever recorded in May 2022.
Agents made 239,416 arrests along the border last month, a two percent increase from the number reported in April.
The agency claims it is preparing for a potential increase in migration levels.
Death incidents at the southern border more than doubled last year, compared to the numbers recorded in previous years.
The agency recorded 557 migrant deaths along the southwest border in 2021. There were 254 recorded deaths in 2020 and 300 in 2019.
The International Organization for Migration, which documents migrant deaths, alleges that the number of people who died attempting to cross the border in 2021 was actually more than 650.
CBP has not published a death tally for 2022 but recorded data shows at least 87 migrants have died while trying to come into the U.S.
Death incidents at the southern border more than doubled last year, compared to the numbers recorded in previous years
Additionally, CBP revealed the number of rescues across the southern border to date for 2022 also outpaces the number recorded in 2021.
Since October Border Patrol has performed 14,278 ‘search-and-rescue missions’ in a seven-month period through May.
These numbers already exceeding the 12,833 missions performed during the previous 12-month period and up from 5,071 the year before.
The latest CBP data showed a large number of migrants are coming from Mexico, Central America, Cuba and Haiti. There is also a growing number of migrants arriving from Turkey, India, Russia and other countries outside of the Western Hemisphere.
CBP revealed the number of rescues across the southern border to date for 2022 also outpaces the number recorded in 2021
Border agents attribute the higher-than-usual number of repeat crossings in May due to the fact that migrants expelled under Title 42, a pandemic-era restriction currently tied up in court, face no legal repercussions if they try to cross again.
The number of unique individuals attempted to cross in May was 177,793, and 25 percent of those stopped by agents had attempted to cross at least once before in the prior 12 months, according to CBP. The average re-encounter rate prior to Title 42 was 15 percent.
Most migrants attempting to cross in May were not families but single adults – 69 percent.
And unlike previous months, Title 42 is no longer the main authority under which migrants are expelled, only 42 percent of migrants were removed under the CDC’s health order.
Most of the migrants expelled under Title 42 were single adults – only about one in six who came in families with children under 18 were subject to Title 42. Unaccompanied children are exempt from the rule.
Fifty-eight percent were expelled under Title 8. Under Title 8, a U.S. immigration policy used when migrants who try to cross unlawfully cannot establish any ‘credible fear’ basis for being in the country. DHS has said it will expand use of Title 8 once Title 42 is gone.
The Biden administration planned to end Title 42 on May 23 but a federal judge in Louisiana blocked the move three days before.