SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Forty-six people were found dead in a suffocating tractor-trailer that was abandoned on a remote back road in San Antonio, in the latest tragedy to claim the lives of migrants smuggling across. the border from Mexico to the United States. United States Sixteen people were hospitalized, including four children.

A city worker heard a cry for help from the truck shortly before 6 p.m. Monday and discovered the gruesome scene, Police Chief William McManus said. Hours later, body bags lay strewn on the ground near the trailer as a grim symbol of the calamity.

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said the 46 who died had “families who were probably trying to find a better life.”

“This is nothing short of a horrible human tragedy,” Nirenberg said.

It is one of the deadliest tragedies that has claimed thousands of lives trying to cross the US border from Mexico in recent decades. 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 suffocating truck southeast of San Antonio.

The immigrants’ countries of origin and how long they had been marooned on the side of the road were not immediately known.

South Texas has long been the busiest area for illegal border crossings. The migrants travel in vehicles through Border Patrol checkpoints to San Antonio, the nearest major city, from which point they scatter across the United States.

A city worker on the scene on a remote back road in southwest San Antonio was alerted to the situation by a cry for help shortly before 6 p.m. Monday, Police Chief William McManus said. Officers arrived and found a body on the ground outside the trailer and a partially open trailer door, he said.

Hours later, body bags lay strewn on the ground near the trailer as a grim symbol of the calamity. There were still bodies inside.

Of the 16 taken to hospitals with heat-related illnesses, 12 were adults and four were children, Fire Chief Charles Hood said. The patients were hot to the touch and dehydrated, and no water was found in the trailer, he said.

“They were suffering from heat stroke and exhaustion,” Hood said. “It was a refrigerated tractor trailer, but there was no visible working air conditioning unit on that bed.”

Those in the trailer were part of an alleged attempt to smuggle migrants into the United States, and the investigation was being conducted by US Homeland Security Investigations, McManus said.

Three people were taken into custody, but it was not clear if they were definitely related to human trafficking, McManus said.

Big trucks emerged as a popular smuggling method in the early 1990s amid increased US border enforcement in San Diego and El Paso, Texas, then the busiest corridors for illegal crossings.

Before then, people paid small fees to family-owned operators to get them across a largely unprotected border. As crossing became exponentially more difficult after the 2001 terrorist attacks on the US, migrants were herded through more dangerous terrain and paid thousands of dollars more.

Heat poses a serious danger, particularly when temperatures can rise severely inside vehicles. Weather in the San Antonio area was mostly cloudy Monday, but temperatures approached 100 degrees.

Some advocates drew a link to the border policies of the Biden administration. Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy director for the American Immigration Council, wrote that he had been fearing such a tragedy for months.

“With the border as closed as it is today to migrants from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, people have been pushed onto increasingly dangerous routes. Truck smuggling is a way up,” she wrote on Twitter.

Stephen Miller, one of the main architects of former President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, said, “Human smugglers and traffickers are wicked and wicked” and that the administration’s approach to border security rewards their actions.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican running for re-election, was blunt in a tweet about the Democratic president: “These deaths are on Biden. They are the result of his deadly open border policies.”

The migrants, mostly from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, have been expelled more than 2 million times under a pandemic-era rule in place since March 2020 that denies them the chance to seek asylum but encourages repeated attempts because there are no legal consequences. for being caught. People from other countries, notably Cuba, Nicaragua, and Colombia, are less often subject to Title 42 authority due to the higher costs of sending them home, strained diplomatic relations, and other considerations.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported 557 deaths at the southwest border in the 12-month period ending Sept. 30, more than double the 247 deaths reported a year earlier and the highest number since it began tracking in 1998. Most are heat-related. exposition.

CBP has not released a death count for this year, but said Border Patrol conducted 14,278 “search and rescue missions” in a seven-month period through May, topping the 12,833 missions conducted during the previous 12-month period and more. from 5,071 the previous year.


Spagat reported from San Diego. Reporter Terry Wallace contributed from Dallas.

Eric Gay and Elliot Spagat, Associated Press

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