SAINT ANTONY – Who is responsible for what could be the deadliest migrant smuggling incident on US soil? That’s the question after the deaths of 50 people found abandoned inside a tractor-trailer on San Antonio’s southwest side Monday night.
San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said three people were taken into custody after the discovery. Those suspects are in federal custody, he said.
Homeland Security Investigations, a branch of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement that specializes in human trafficking cases, is leading the investigation.
Here’s what we know about how they were discovered and what charges they could face.
What we know about possible suspects
According to a law enforcement source familiar with the investigation, one person was taken into custody at the scene in the 9600 block of Quintana Road. The man, believed to be the driver, was found in a field along with some of the survivors. He may have been trying to blend in with them.
Two others were later arrested at a home in southern Bexar County.
They were tracked to the house after a witness obtained a license plate number from a truck that fled the scene, the source told KSAT.
According to the Washington Post, the tractor trailer had US Department of Transportation and Texas registration numbers on the cab. But those numbers may have been fraudulent.
The Post reported that Texas records showed the numbers were registered to a man in Alamo, in Hidalgo County, near the Mexican border. The man’s son said the search was for a Volvo that had been hauling grain in another part of Texas and insisted they were innocent victims.
The US Attorney’s Office has not said whether the people arrested Monday night have been charged with any crimes.
But given other similar cases, anyone found connected to this tragedy could be charged with conspiracy to transport migrants resulting in death and/or transporting migrants resulting in death.
James Matthew Bradley Jr.
On July 23, 2017, 10 migrants died after being smuggled in a tractor-trailer.
They were discovered in a Walmart parking lot at 8358 Interstate 35 South on the city’s southwest side.
Investigators found 39 immigrants at the scene, but believe 100 to 200 people could have been crammed into that suffocating trailer.
James Matthew Bradley, Jr., 61, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to transport aliens resulting in death and one count of transporting aliens resulting in death.
Bradley received life in prison.
In May 2003, Tyrone Williams was paid $7,500 to smuggle immigrants through a border checkpoint.
As temperatures rose above 170 degrees inside an unrefrigerated dairy truck, migrants screamed for help and tried to get out.
At Victoria, Williams unhitched the trailer and drove away.
Nineteen people died.
Williams was convicted by a jury of conspiring with others to transport and harbor illegal aliens for business and financial gain and sentenced to 34 years in prison no chance of parole.
Report suspicious activity
Homeland Security Investigations released a statement Tuesday with minimal information about the incident, but urged people to come forward if they have information about this or any smuggling situation.
“To report suspicious activity, we encourage people to call the HSI tip line at 1-866-DHS-2ICE. All calls are kept confidential.”
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