Semi-Truck San Antonio: Four Hours in a Sweltering Truck: A Migrant’s Dream That Ended in Tragedy | UNITED STATES
The first record was recorded in the small Texas town of Encinal, half an hour from the Mexican border. It was 2:50 p.m. on Monday last week and a red Volvo cargo truck was passing through a checkpoint. The driver, wearing a black cap and a striped polo shirt, was captured by security cameras as he spoke to police without getting out of the vehicle. The trailer was loaded with 67 people who risked their lives to cross the border.
Half an hour later, the caravan passed another checkpoint in the town of Cotulla without the agents detecting anything unusual there either. The next check-in is from 6:20 p.m.; the truck had been abandoned on a road on the outskirts of San Antonio. When the police opened the back of the semi-trailer truck, 47 migrants had already died of asphyxiation and dehydration. Six others would die in hospital in the following days.
They were locked inside a sweltering truck with no water or air conditioning for at least four hours, authorities said, who also confirmed it was the biggest migration tragedy on US soil. They may have even spent longer than that there, in the middle of a Texas heat wave, with temperatures reaching 114ºF (46ºC). The truck had entered the United States through the Mexican city of Nuevo Laredo, in the state of Tamaulipas, a hotspot for organized crime. But the migrants came from further afield. Of those who died, 27 were Mexican, including several from southern states like Oaxaca. Others came from even further afield: Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
Official communications from the authorities have been rare since the day of the tragedy, fueling rumors about the identity of the migrants. The Associated Press news agency was able to confirm that among the victims were two Guatemalan children, Wilmer Tulul and Pascual Melvin Guachiac, both 13 years old. “Mom, we are on our way,” was the last message the family received. The miners, who were cousins, left on June 14 from the community of Tzucubal, in the mountainous southwest of the Central American country. Their goal was to get to Houston, where relatives were waiting for them. According to the same source, the father of one of the boys paid $3,000 to a coyote, or human smuggler. Another $3,000 had to be paid once they arrived at their destination.
The ongoing investigation, which has already resulted in four arrests, has not been able to clarify whether the migrants crossed the border inside the truck. The most common pattern is that, although they have crossed into Mexico inside the trailers, the migrants are forced to descend a little before the border, which they then cross on foot through a little guarded area of the territory. semi-desert shared by the two countries. Once on American soil, after border control, they return to the truck to reach one of the major American cities. Once inside American territory, the truck with the 67 people on board passed two checks, which extend over the first 100 kilometers of Texas territory. Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, justified himself on Wednesday by saying that “Border Patrol does not have the means to inspect all trucks”. Timothy Tubbs, a former Laredo police chief, told local media that criminals often spray migrants with food spices and seasonings to camouflage the scent of officers’ dogs.
It is also unclear what time the truck arrived on the road where it was found, an isolated turnoff from the main highway. At 5:55 p.m., the police received an emergency call. The owner of an auto body repair shop in an area near the highway told this newspaper the day after the tragedy that one of his workers was the person who called the police: “When he went working, he found the trailer parked there. He approached and heard calls for help in Spanish inside the trailer. He was scared and called the emergency number. Authorities believe that the driver must have broken down and decided to abandon the vehicle. In fact, he was arrested while fleeing the scene on foot and tried to impersonate one of the migrants. The driver is one of four detainees charged with human trafficking and facing the death penalty.
More trucks, fewer trains
The use of freight trucks for human trafficking by organized crime is becoming more common, especially after the tightening of controls on the lines of the freight train crossing Mexico to the north, explicitly nicknamed La Bestia ( The beast). In 2014, a joint accord between the governments of Barack Obama and Enrique Peña Nieto focused efforts on blocking this path. “Walls have been built, more police have been put in place and the speed of the train has even been increased so that people cannot get on or off easily,” says Gretchen Kuhner, director of the Institute for Women in Education. migration. From 2014 to 2017, cases of migrant smuggling in freight trucks uncovered in the United States rose from just 20 to nearly 100, according to a compilation by the Strauss Center in Austin.
In 2017, a truck carrying 39 migrants was found in the parking lot of a shopping mall in San Antonio. Ten people died on this occasion. “It shows that when you put more restrictions in place, people are forced to look for more dangerous options,” Kuhner sums up. Since then, the governments of the United States and Mexico have further tightened border controls.
Three years ago, the executive of Mexico’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador approved an ordinance requiring bus companies to request immigration documents from their customers before selling them tickets. Another exceptional measure introduced during the Covid pandemic, Title 42, allowed the United States to immediately return undocumented migrants to the Mexican coast for two years.
Paradoxically, this expedited mechanism, which does not deport migrants to their real country of origin but leaves them in Mexico instead, has encouraged people to insistently try to cross again, according to human rights organizations. ‘man. In May, all records were broken with more than 239,000 illegal border crossings. The impact of the pandemic has also caused changes in migration patterns. Mexico had reduced the number of undocumented entries into the United States by its own nationals to an almost minimum. Over the past year, however, that number has doubled. And the crossings continue to increase, as this week’s tragedy showed, as almost half of the people traveling in the back of the truck were Mexican.