As many as 50 migrants have been found dead inside a tractor trailer found about 150 miles north of the US-Mexico border, underscoring how a lack of legal migration pathways force those seeking to cross the border to rely on human smugglers.
Mexico’s Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard confirmed in a June 28 tweet that at least 22 Mexican nationals were among the 51 migrants local officials reported were found dead inside a tractor trailer in southwest San Antonio, Texas, one day earlier.
San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said during a June 27 press conference that a nearby worker heard cries for help, went to investigate and found the trailer’s doors partially open with a number of deceased individuals inside.
Initially, San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said during the same press conference that 46 dead bodies had been identified, with 16 more individuals transported to local hospitals for treatment. They were “hot to the touch,” he said. “No signs of water in the vehicle, it was a refrigerated tractor trailer, but there was no visible working AC unit on that rig.”
Authorities are still working to identify all of the bodies uncovered, but Foreign Secretary Ebrard said that seven Guatemalan and two Honduran nationals were also among the dead.
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Migrant deaths along the southwest US-Mexico border continue to increase as legal migration pathways have been closed.
This year “appears likely to be a record year for deaths of migrants on US soil” in part because US policy has “closed ports of entry to asylum seekers, routing many to the treacherous areas in between,” according to a June 2022 report from the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).
Policies like Title 42, the so-called public health order still in effect after first being implemented under former US President Donald Trump, have made clandestine border crossings the only option for entering the country and exacerbated the risks migrants face. These include drowning in the Rio Grande, dying from exposure to extreme heat while crossing the desert, as well as suffocating to death inside tractor trailers or dying in vehicle accidents.
In the Laredo Sector of US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), to which the city of San Antonio belongs, migrant deaths have increased almost 40 percent in recent years, from at least 56 in fiscal year 2015 to 78 in fiscal year 2019, according to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report released last year.
However, the death toll is likely much higher, as CBP data only tells part of the story. A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released in April this year found that the agency has “not collected and recorded … complete data on migrant deaths.”