By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
The migrants died inside a tractor-trailer in the U.S. city of San Antonio, Texas, where temperatures swelled to 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39.4 degrees Celsius).
By Tuesday, three suspects were detained, but authorities struggled with a migration surge at the southern border.
Only about 16 migrants, including children, were found alive between the dead bodies piling inside the truck. They were taken to local hospitals suffering from heat exhaustion and apparent dehydration, city officials recalled.
The truck was discovered by a worker from a nearby business who “heard a cry for help and came out to investigate,” said William McManus, the chief of the San Antonio Police Department.
McManus added that the worker had found the doors of the trailer partially open and found many bodies inside.
Most of the bodies, which included men and women, were found inside the truck at around 6 p.m., though at least one was outside of the vehicle, according to investigators. The fire chief, Charles Hood, said the people transported to hospitals were “hot to the touch” and appeared to be suffering from “heat stroke, heat exhaustion.” The truck, though designed to be refrigerated, had “no visible, working A/C unit,” he stressed.
State officials in Texas, already managing record levels of migrant crossings from Mexico, have been bracing for a new surge this spring and summer. The Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, lashed out at President Joe Biden for “not doing enough” to secure the southern border.
He said the latest deaths “are a result of his deadly open border policies. They show the deadly consequences of his refusal to enforce the law.”
Calling the deaths “horrifying and heartbreaking,” the president added that “this incident underscores the need to go after the multi-billion dollar criminal smuggling industry preying on migrants and leading to far too many innocent deaths.”
The White House claimed an anti-smuggling campaign with Mexico, and others contributed to 2,400 arrests in the last three months.
Abbott, running for a third term in November, made a crackdown on illegal migration a centerpiece of his campaign. He allocated billions into border security, deploying the national guard. He reportedly bused thousands of asylum-seekers to the nation’s capital to signal they aren’t welcome in Texas in an apparent attempt to embarrass Biden.
All the victims discovered overnight were believed to have crossed into the United States illegally and been brought north. The closest border crossing is roughly 140 miles (224 kilometers) away.
The tragedy was the deadliest in a series of incidents involving migrants. One of the other notorious smuggling cases occurred in 2003 when police discovered the bodies of 17 migrants, including a 7-year-old boy. They were found inside an overheated trailer in Victoria, a city in southern Texas. Another migrant later died at a hospital.
In 2017, 10 men died in San Antonio after riding in a tractor-trailer packed with as many as 200 migrants who did not have food, water, or fresh air for hours. Nearly 30 other people were hospitalized, and the driver was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the smuggling operation.
Crashes near the border are also common, sometimes during chases by law enforcement.
Last year in March 2021, 13 people were killed in a remote stretch of Southern California when a crammed Ford Expedition drove into the path of a tractor-trailer. And last August, at least ten people died, and 20 others were injured after a van crashed in South Texas.
In 2012, a Ford pickup crammed with more than 20 undocumented migrants struck two trees in South Texas, killing 15 people.
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