Lawmakers and rights advocates mourned the loss of life and decried the United States’ inhumane immigration system late Monday after an abandoned tractor-trailer rig containing at least 50 dead people and 16 survivors — including four children — was discovered in San Antonio, Texas.
Local authorities stated that it appeared that the rig was being used to smuggle goods. One law enforcement official said so. The Texas Tribune reported that evidence suggests “people were trying to jump out of the tractor-trailer because some of the deceased were found along several blocks.”
“The tractor-trailer had a refrigeration system, the official said, but it did not appear to be working,” the Tribune added. “Many of the people found inside the vehicle appeared to have been sprinkled with steak seasoning, the official said, in perhaps an attempt to cover up the smell of people as the smugglers were transporting them.”
On Monday, the temperature in San Antonio reached a high of 101°F.
The 16 survivors were taken to a nearby hospital. According to Mexico’s foreign minister, 22 Mexicans, seven Guatemalans, and two Hondurans were among the deceased.
Aaron Reichlin-Melnick policy director at American Immigration Council wroteOn Twitter, the smuggling case was described as the most serious at the U.S.-Mexico frontier in the last five year. 2017 10 people diedIn a truck carrying almost 40 migrants in the sweltering San Antonio heat.
In 2003, 19 migrants died in a similarly devastating case in Victoria, Texas that was at the time considered the “deadliest smuggling incident in U.S. history.”
“Been dreading another tragedy like this for months now,” wrote Reichlin-Melnick. “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 way up.”
“Truck smuggling is VERY dangerous,” he continued. “It has the possibility to go horribly wrong. And when its use goes up, the possibility of mass-death incidents go up as well.”
As federal, state, and local authorities investigated the incident and details continued to emerge, Texas’ Republican Gov. Greg Abbott immediately blamed President Joe Biden for the deaths. claiming that “they are a result of his deadly open border policies.”
Experts and rights organizations were quick to respond — scathingly, in most cases.
Shouan Zhoobin Rikahi, an Immigration Attorney tweeted that “if the border was ‘open,’ people wouldn’t feel the need to pack themselves like fucking sardines in the back of an unventilated trailer in the middle of the god damn summer in order to enter the country.”
Frank Sharry, executive director of immigrant rights group America’s Voice, added: “How low can this man go? People who seek out opportunities end up losing their lives. It is a tragedy of great proportions. This is the time to reconsider the stupid and myopic border debate. This lowlife makes it into a deplorable tweet to score cheap points. He’s the governor of Texas? Good God.”
Devastating. Devastated. People will always strive for the freedom to flourish. We need an immigration system that recognizes and protects the humanity of those who are seeking to immigrate. My heart breaks for these families. 💔💔 https://t.co/hAKWHlNkOP
— Victoria Ballesteros (@VictoriaB_NILC) June 28, 2022
Members of Congress were also alerted to the appalling discovery made in southwest San Antonio. They demanded an end of Title 42, Trump’s border expulsion policy.
“This is horrific,” said Rep. Chuy García (D-Ill.). “We need to end Title 42 and fix our broken immigration system so these unimaginable tragedies stop happening. People fleeing violence or poverty deserve a better life. Que descansen en paz.”
Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, who represents San Antonio echoed García.
“The tragedy in San Antonio tonight, the loss of life, is horrific,” Castro wrote on Twitter. “My prayers are with the victims, their families, and the survivors being treated in our community. May God bless them. We must end Title 42, which has put desperate, oppressed people in grave danger of death.”